German government approves $2.48bn new arms sales

It took the new government in Berlin only weeks to approve arms exports worth almost as much as those greenlit by the previous cabinet over six months in 2021

In the seven weeks since taking office, the new German government, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, has greenlit arms exports totaling €2.2 billion ($2.48 billion) – almost as much as ex-chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved over the first six months of 2021.

At the time, Merkel’s government approved €2.3 billion ($2.59 billion) worth of arms sales. 

The new figures prompted some German media, including RP Online, to suggest that the Scholz government is on its way toward a new arms exports record.

Merkel’s government set its own record last year right before their term was due to expire. In the last nine days in office, her cabinet approved arms sales to the tune of nearly $5 billion, bringing the total amount of the nation’s arms exports in 2021 to €9.35 billion ($10.53 billion). 

The new coalition government, made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats, had vowed to re-examine the previous cabinet’s arms export policies. In December, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called it a matter not only of economy but of “foreign policy, human rights and international relations.”

Scholz’s government also announced it was working on a new arms control bill. 

Most of the newly-approved sales were destined for other EU nations, NATO members, and partners like Australia or New Zealand, according to the media, with only a tiny fraction of 0.1% being sold to “third countries.” The term refers to all non-EU and non-NATO nations that do not have the status of “NATO allies” like Australia, Japan or New Zealand.

One deal with the Netherlands involves deliveries of artillery munitions for Dutch ammo depots and firing ranges and accounts for the lion’s share of newly-approved exports at €1.79 billion ($2.02 billion). 

Arms worth hundreds of millions of euros are also being sold to Australia, while the US and UK will get German arms worth dozens of millions of euros.

Sven Giegold, a parliamentary state secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs who is responsible for arms exports, told the dpa news agency that the sales were based on close security cooperation with European partners.

In 2021, Egypt emerged as the top recipient of the German arms. The Arab nation was criticized over alleged human rights abuses and its involvement in conflicts in Yemen and Libya. Berlin still sold Cairo three navy ships and 16 air defense systems while Merkel was the German chancellor. 

The Social Democrats, which now lead the government coalition, were part of Merkel’s cabinet at the time as well. The then-incumbent chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was a vice-chancellor and the finance minister in the previous government.

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