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Spiegel-Interview

German approval for arms exports to Saudi Arabia: we need binding agreements at German and EU level

At the end of September, the German government approved exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. I explained both the background of this decision and my own position in detail in an interview with “Der Spiegel” (link in German): Personally, I believe that the authorisation of the exports was wrong. At the same time, I can understand how the German Federal Security Council (Bundessicherheitsrat) came to this decision. We must now have a general debate about which countries we want to export to.

Why is it problematic to export weapons and/ or weapon parts to Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia has been involved in the war in Yemen since 2015. The country has deployed Eurofighters in this war and bombed civilian targets. If ammunition for the Eurofighter manufactured in Germany is supplied to Saudi Arabia, it can also be used in the Yemen war.

What is the background?

In 2018, Germany imposed an embargo on arms exports to Saudi Arabia because of its role in the Yemen war and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was critical of the government. In the coalition agreement of the current German government, arms deliveries to actors involved in the war in Yemen were explicitly excluded. Moreover, such exports neither comply with the German government's guidelines on arms exports, nor with the common European rules on arms exports, to which all parties should adhere.

What needs to happen now?

France in particular is putting pressure on Germany to approve exports to highly problematic countries as part of joint projects. We need negotiations on an equal footing with our European partners on this issue. The focus should i.a. not be on the economic interests of the French arms industry, but on European principles, above all the goal of promoting peace. We need negotiations within the EU about how we envisage a common arms export policy in the future.

At the German level, we must also establish a clear position. This should happen in the forthcoming Arms Export Control Act: This law will also be based on the common European position and translate it into binding national law. As long as there is no European solution, the law should apply to European joint projects. This is the only way we can get France to negotiate with us on a common European arms export policy.

You can read more on this topic in articles of “Die Zeit” (link in German) and “Frankfurter Rundschau” (link in German).

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