Assessing the “Friedenspolitik”

The berlinbrief wants to draw your attention to a number of new reports by non-governmental organisations assessing the German government’s security and arms policies. In the Foreign Ministry, you will often hear the slogan “Aussenpolitik ist Friedenspolitik” (“Foreign Policy is Policy for Peace”). What do the independent institutions say?

You might remember that the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has recently published its annual report, ranking Germany as the world’s third largest arms seller (see berlinbrief, 28 March 2010).

Also, in December 2009, the Joint Conference Church and Development (Gemeinsame Konferenz Kirche und Entwicklung, GKKE) presented its 13th annual report. The report collates publicly available information on German arms and armaments exports of the year 2008 as well as on export licences, and evaluates the data in the context of the government’s commitments within the coalition treaty and the European Union.

Now, the English summary of the GKKE 2009 report is available. The berlinbrief publishes it in full length without additional editing. (see below)

Next week, the “Friedensgutachten” (“Peace Report”), an annual report by five renowned German institutes for peace and conflict research, will be presented in Berlin. The berlinbrief will get back to the issue. For now, a summary in English is available here.

Here is the summary of the 2009 GKKE report in full length:

“The Reports of the Joint Conference Church and Development (GKKE)

(0.01) The Joint Conference Church and Development (GKKE) has submitted its thirteenth Arms Export Report since 1997. The report has been drafted by the GKKE’s Working group on Arms Exports, the members of which include representatives of the Churches and experts from academic institutions, Church development cooperation and non-governmental organizations. The report collates publicly-available information on the German arms and armaments exports of the previous year (2008) and their export licences, and evaluates it in the context of peace and development policy.

The report is to promote the dialogue with those who bear political, social and economic responsibility and the public discourse on this political issue.

German Arms Exports in 2008

Approved exports

(0.02) In 2008, the Federal Government issued 16.054 single export licences for armaments amounting to the sum of € 5.78 billion. This corresponds to an increase of licenses of 36.5 % as against the previous year.

At a value of € 1.67 billion, the export licenses for warships present the largest single item (28 % of the total value of all single export licenses). They are followed by export licences for tanks and armoured vehicles to the amount of € 1.33 billion (23 %), for electronic equipment to the amount of € 816 million (14 %) and for ammunition and accessories at a total of € 297 million (5.3 %).

(0.03) Exports of small arms and light weapons (including hunting weapons and sporting weapons) reaching a total of € 176.6 million (2007: € 171.1 million) were approved in 2008. Among these are the following transfers:

Largest buyers

12.296 submachine guns Norway, Jordan, USA

20.105 assault rifles Norway, Lithuania, USA, Spain

2.174 light machine guns Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Spain

4.304 recoilless rifles Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Slovenia, Singapore

(0.04) In addition to the single export licences, the collective export licences play an important part in German arms exports statistics. They are mainly issued to EU and NATO states or states that are equally treated in the context of armament cooperations. In the previous years supplies to Chile, Israel, Malaysia and South Africa were included into the simplified licensing procedure. Collective export licences can be used for several years.

In 2008, 146 new collective export licences were issued, reaching a value of € 2.54 billion compared to € 5.05 billion in 2007.

Recipients of German Arms Exports

(0.05) The highest values for single export licences for arms can be found for exports to South Korea (€ 1.87 billion), to the USA (€ 507 million), to Great Britain (€ 398.7 million) and to Singapore (€ 339 million).

Further relevant recipients of German armaments belonging to the group of „third countries“ (states which do not belong to or have status equal to EU Member States or NATO countries) were Saudi Arabia (approved transfers amounting to a value of € 170.4 million), the United Arab Emirates (€ 142 million), Pakistan (€ 93.2 million), India (€ 51.8 million), Egypt (€ 33.6 million), Afghanistan (€ 33 million), Israel (€ 25 million) and Oman (€ 22.4 million).

(0.06) In 2008, single export licences amounting to a value of € 509.5 million, that is 8.8 % of all single licence values, were issued for states which according to the OECD receive official development aid.

The Federal Government authorized the export of armaments to countries belonging to the group of „high-debt“ states amounting to the value of € 41.1 million, Afghanistan alone receiving € 33 million.


(0.07) Information as to the German arms export licences in 2008 confirm the impression, that there is still an ongoing upward trend, at least in special sectors. Responsible for this trend are the transfers of expensive warships such as the export of material for submarines to South Korea in 2008. In addition, exports of armoured vehicles, artillery as well as of small and light arms and ammunition are important factors. Arms of this category to a great extent are also exported to third countries, as delivery promises to Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Pakistan give evidence for. Supplies to arms manufacturers in other European states are further important pillars of German arms exports.

(0.08) Compared with this, the share of German arms exports to countries which receive official development aid was comparatively low with 8.8 % of the value of all single export licenses issued in 2008. Nevertheless, GKKE observes that again developing countries like Pakistan, India, Egypt and Afghanistan are among the ten most important recipients of German arms deliveries to third countries.

(0.09) On the whole, the German arms industry is well-established on the world arms market, as is regularly confirmed by estimates of independent institutions like the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI.

Licensing procedures for arms exports seem to work well regardless of political controversies, as is shown by the extensive export licenses to Pakistan in 2008. The year before, however, the promise to export submarines to Pakistan and to guarantee this transaction with a state indemnity bond provoked severe criticism by politicians and the general public. The impression of routine practise is supported by the fact that the Federal Government does not provide any information on the number, item and addressee of preliminary enquiries or on the outcome. With such enquiries, German firms try to asses the prospects for approval of coming arms deals. The Federal Government also refuses to give reasons for rejected export applications, thus making decision-making procedures less transparent.

(0.10) Data on German arms exports in 2008 also reveal that military actions which started in the context of the „War on Terror“ and which still continue worldwide result in new exports also for German armament manufacturers. This is shown by deliveries to Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon.

Though these transfers serve to build up national security forces or to equip international peace missions, GKKE thinks there is a worrying correlation between supplies of arms and peace efforts. To this day, a safe keeping of delivered weapons and armaments could not be ensured as for instance the appearance of weapons of German origin on the black markets in Afghanistan and Pakistan show. Last year already, weapons of German origin were identified in Georgia, though the legal regulations in force prohibit arms exports to this country. The Federal Government has yet to give an explanation for this.

German Arms Exports in Light of the Criteria Contained in the EU Code of Conduct for Arms Exports

(0.11) In 2008 again, German arms exports were permitted to countries, which do not meet the criteria of the EU Code of Conduct for arms exports. According to research by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), this holds true for 51 states which received 2,554 licenses amounting to € 1.16 billion.

The value of single export licences to countries which do not meet at least four of the BICC standards that are based on the EU Code of Conduct (such as human rights situation, regional and internal stability, relation between arms expenditure and development efforts) amounted to € 106.3 million in the year under review. Recipient countries that are to be considered problematic under these criteria are, amongst others, Pakistan, Angola and Afghanistan.

The Future of the German Arms Export Policy

(0.12) GKKE considers the arms export policy to be a touchstone for the credibility of German foreign peace policy. In this regard, it agrees with the norms regulating the international transfer of armaments. These are expressed in laws as well as in the Federal Government’s political principles governing the export of war weapons and other armaments from the year 2000, and in the Common Position of 8 December 2008 of the EU defining common rules governing control of exports of military technologies and equipment.

The Coalition Treaty of 26 October 2009

(0.13) The coalition treaty of the factions of the CDU, CSU and FDP, who form the new federal government after the elections of 27 September 2009, gives two different signals in view of the future of arms export policy – one is loud and clear, the other one is subdued and restrained.

The clear signal summed up by the slogan „fair rules governing the world economy“ contains the request to abolish impediments to competition for German arms manufacturers and to facilitate the export of dual-use-goods. These statements are accompanied by declarations of intent to support aviation and shipbuilding industry, to strive for system leadership in arms production and to bring acquisitions for the Bundeswehr (armed forces) into a context of export options for armaments.

The more subdued signal can be found in the passages of the coalition treaty dedicated to foreign and security policy. Here it is said that the government wants to counteract regional arms race spirals and to prevent the move of nuclear military options to conventional armament. In its arms export policy, the federal government wants to continue the current export regulations and to support a harmonization of the export criteria on a European level. What is missing, however, is the commitment to maintain supposedly high barriers of the German export control regime.

(0.14) According to GKKE, the juxtaposition of both signals shows that there is no consistency in the new federal government’s arms export policy. Compared with previous terms of office, however, the introduction of the question of arms exports into the context of foreign trade policy and a military modernization of the Bundeswehr means a considerable shift of emphasis. While the emphasis in the past was on a „restrained“ or a „restrictive“ licensing procedure, today there is only an appeal to act with „responsibility“ without any further explanations.

This is why GKKE criticises that the new federal government’s arms export policy is directed at foreign trade and industrial policy aspects and neglects peace policy and development policy. If regional arms race spirals in the Near and Middle East, in South and South East Asia or in Southern America are to be stopped, armament deals must not be pushed.

The coalition treaty is not very clear in its statements on other aspects of foreign and development policy; the same is true of some aspects of arms export policy. For instance, the document does not mention any of the current worldwide efforts to reduce the proliferation of small and light arms or to reach an agreement on the control of arms trade.

(0.15) Given Germany’s responsibility to pursue a peace policy, GKKE continues to plead for a restrictive arms export policy, seen in the context of disarmament and arms control. A restrictive arms export policy, which still is a worldwide appreciated trademark of German policy, is much too precious to be sacrificed for foreign trade or industrial policy interests. This was already expressed in the Political Principles of the year 2000.

Strengthen the German Arms Export Control Regime

(0.16) Despite all criticism, the German arms export control regime is sensitive to obligations resulting from peace policy and development policy. To strengthen its international respect or to protect it from damage, GKKE makes the following suggestions:

(1) GKKE favours an extended participation of the Bundestag in decisions on arms exports. Parliament has to be included in the decision-making process at an early time. So GKKE suggests the subcommittee of the Commission on Foreign Affairs of the Bundestag „Disarmament, Arms control and Non-proliferation“ to participate in the licensing procedures.

(2) GKKE observes a restriction of arms export policy to the material aspects of armament deals. This, however, does not consider the high percentage military and security services and technology transfers occupy in the international arms trade. In view of this an extension of the political perspective and the control instruments is urgently needed.

(3) GKKE requests that evaluations of the implications of arms transfers, as provided for in the Political Principles and the EU Common Position, take into account the overall political, economic and social context of the recipient country and are not limited to an assessment of the particular item in question.

(4) GKKE warns not to promote the intended cooperation of European arms manufacturers by facilitating arms exports. Industrial and employment policy arguments would then be allowed to influence the assessment of licence applications, which is against the intention of the arms export control regime.

(5) GKKE expects the Federal Government to take further steps to combat corruption in arms exports deals. The OECD guidelines for a concerted action against corruption should be extended and apply to arms trade, too.

(6) GKKE insists on its demand not to ensure arms transfers by state indemnity bonds („Hermes credits“). As long as this is not yet the case, the Federal Government should at least inform about such financial guarantees and justify them in its annual report on arms exports.

(7) GKKE considers it imperative that the Federal Government returns to a prompt reporting on German arms exports. In addition to the Annual Disarmament Reports, the official report on arms exports should be made available to the German Bundestag and the public until the 30th of June of the following year. On the whole, the flow of information on arms transfers must be improved, especially information regarding the complex of collective export licenses and of armament cooperation. Verifiable reasons must be given for licensed and disapproved exports of weapons of war to third countries.

(8) On the premise that maximum transparency is beneficial to a rational political debate on the pros and cons of arms exports, GKKE advises the federal government to enter into an open discussion on data from official, scientific and other sources and thus to contribute to clarification. Secretiveness fuels distrust and makes this political field more susceptible to scandals

Control of Arms Trade as a European and Global Challenge

(0.17) On the European level, efforts to give the arms export policy a European orientation have intensified. A witness to this is the adoption of a Common Position on European arms exports on 8 December 2008 as well as the issuing of the directive on transfers of military items, technologies and services in 2009. With this, arms transfers become part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and of the European single market. But the risk still exists that efforts to achieve convergence and coherence fail in view of the respective logic of these two pillars of European cooperation.

On the global level, efforts to reach control over the proliferation of arms and other military items by a universal Arms Trade Treaty have also intensified. Especially states of the Southern hemisphere which suffer from violent conflicts call for a reduction of arms deals.

(0.18) The international developments do not reduce the strain on the German political institutions, but confronts them with new, extended responsibilities. To cope with these GKKE makes the following suggestions:

(1) GKKE regards the Council’s Common Position on arms exports adopted on 8 December 2008 as an intermediate step on the way to an arms exports strategy coordinated within the EU. The aim of this strategy is to counter individual national deals and competitions within Europe for armament contracts with third countries. These guidelines have not yet been fulfilled with the Council Common Position of 2008. This is why, according to GKKE, further efforts are necessary to oppose national egotism that frequently can be found in connection with arms deals. A harmonization of the standards on issuing export licences must not be achieved at the lowest level.

(2) In view of the manifest differences in the individual national reports on arms transfers, GKKE considers an adaption with regard to quality necessary. The fact, that the member states of the EU which only joined the Union in 2004 and 2007 show a high level of transparency in licensing procedures, should be a reminder to older member states like Germany to improve their registration and publication of arms export deals.

(3) In the light of simplified arms transfers within Europe, GKKE considers it necessary that the peace intentions of the arms export control regime continue to have priority over administrative simplifications and the interests of the arms industry. The wish to strengthen European cooperation and marketing in the field of armament must not be accompanied by a restriction of control and transparency. The control of arms exports is an integral part of the international efforts towards arms control and disarmament.

(4) Concerning the current negotiations on a global arms trade treaty, GKKE considers the whole Federal Government and not just individual departments, to be responsible for the German peace policy. The cautious handling of arms exports is the complementary instrument of a policy committed to the prevention of crisis, nonviolent conflict treatment and peace consolidation. These key words were already used by former governments, but for the new German government the related problems still exist.

(5) German enterprises are influential manufacturers and exporters of small and light arms, of ammunition and accessories as well as of manufacturing plants. This is why GKKE feels the Federal Government to be obliged to continue to support the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and to contribute to a successful outcome of the review conference that will be held in 2012. The failure of such venture, as could be observed in 2006, cannot be accepted in view of the disastrous social and economic damages caused by the proliferation of small and light arms.

A Look Ahead: New Employment Options Require Restrictive Handling of German Submarines Exports

(0.19) For German politics it is necessary to consider prevention of conflicts, if arms are to be transferred. This is especially shown by the important role of exports of submarines or of military material for the final assembly in recipient countries. Germany is one of the most important exporters of this kind of weapons. Due to their new propulsion, German submarines can be employed on the high seas as well as near the coast. In addition, the latest types are equipped with integrated direction and weapons systems. They are suited for launching guided and cruise missiles against sea- and land-based targets, thus resulting in options for employment that reach far beyond the range of previous submarines.

(0.20) In addition to German submarines exports to Israel and Pakistan that were viewed critically by politics, the public and by GKKE, the growing attractiveness of German submarines on the global arms market confronts the German arms exports policy with new challenges. The principle being valid for decades that exports of submarines are unproblematic („what is afloat, is o.k.“) is no longer valid in view of the existing technologies and weapons that offer these modern submarines more ranges for employment.

This is why GKKE demands to handle export licensing for submarines and military material in a much more restrictive way than before. For this category of weapons a specific “culture of restraint” has to be displayed. This perhaps calls for an independent, multilateral non-proliferation policy for submarines. With an appropriate policy, Germany, as a leading export nation for non-nuclear propulsion submarines, could take a pioneering role in this regard. Such a role would correspond to the new federal government’s commitment to counteract regional arms race spirals and to revive a global policy of armament control.”

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