Controversial arms exports: It will be exciting to see what Scholz is doing as Chancellor

To analyse

Status: December 27, 2021 6:13 p.m.

The new government under Chancellor Scholz wants to control arms exports more strictly. The old government, in which Scholz was Vice-Chancellor, approved controversial deals at the last minute. It’s not surprising.

An analysis by Martin Polansky, ARD capital studio

It is a new high: the German government has issued arms export licenses for a good nine billion euros in the current year – around one billion euros more than in the previous record year of 2019.

Martin Polansky
ARD capital studio

Two things stand out: On the one hand, most of the permits concern Egypt. Armaments worth 4.3 billion euros are allowed to be delivered to the country that is ruled in an authoritarian manner by ex-general Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and that participates in the Saudi-led alliance in the Yemen war. On the other hand, the extensive permits were granted shortly before the change of government. In other words: the former federal government of the Union and the SPD gave the green light again for armaments exports worth billions shortly before the end of the day.

Controversial from the start

Neither of these comes as a complete surprise, of course: Specifically, the focus is on the sale of three frigates and 16 air defense systems that were launched years ago. The orders are not only big, they were controversial from the start.

Weapons for Egypt: That is not possible, the Greens and Left Party have emphasized in the past – with reference to the human rights situation in the country and also to the participation in the Yemen war. So far, the Union and the SPD have rated it differently: On the one hand, Egypt is considered a strategically important country in the Middle East; on the other hand, it has been argued that warships or air defense systems could hardly be used in the fight against domestic opponents.

In this respect, it seems almost logical that the old federal government finally approved long-term arms deals shortly before the end – even if the government was only in office in an executive position. For the new government, the deal has the advantage that it is now ticked, that it will probably not have much to do with the specific case.

How will the SPD decide in the future?

It is therefore interesting to look ahead: The new traffic light coalition wants to handle arms exports more restrictively in the future and create a new legal basis for this – with an arms export control law. There is already a comprehensive legal basis for arms exports. But the Greens and the FDP in particular want to lay down stricter criteria, which should also have a stronger binding effect.

Details of the new law have yet to be negotiated. A basic problem could remain, however: In the case of significant arms deals, especially with countries that do not belong to the EU and NATO, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis – in the Federal Security Council, which includes the Federal Chancellor and various ministers. The SPD should then also play a decisive role here. And the question could soon arise whether a Chancellor Scholz will evaluate arms deals with Egypt differently than the former Vice-Chancellor Scholz.

Analysis – The Federal Government and Arms Control

Martin Polansky, ARD Berlin, 27.12.2021 · 16:59

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