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Airbus maintenance work of Turkish military aircraft: disappointing responses from Airbus, OCCAR and the Federal Government

Last month, the EU decided to prolong the IRINI mission in the Mediterranean which aims to enforce the arms embargo against Libya. At the same time, European multinational Airbus continues to maintain Turkish A400M military aircrafts and to deliver spare parts.

Maintenance works are organised by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), which has i.a. Italy, Spain, France and Germany on its supervisory board. Since August 2020 at the latest there are indications that the A400M aircrafts are being used for transports between Turkey and Libya – thereby breaching the arms embargo the IRINI mission is supposed to enforce.

This has also been confirmed by the latest report of the UN 'Panel of Experts'. The very fact that the planes are entering Libyan airspace is a violation of the embargo, and it is highly likely that these planes are transporting Turkish troops and military equipment to Libya.

The same governments that want to enforce the arms embargo with the IRINI mission by sea are enabling it to be broken by air through the maintenance of the A400M.

After all, without the maintenance and spare parts supplies from European companies such as Airbus, Turkey would no longer be able to operate these flights to Libya.

I investigated the matter and asked Airbus and OCCAR some specific questions, for example:

  • Does the current maintenance contract for the Turkish A400M fleet include provisions stipulating that the fleet may not be used in violation of international law?
  • Does the above mentioned contract include provisions allowing the service provider to cease the contract under specified conditions?
  • What monitoring measures have Airbus and OCCAR established for the duration of the maintenance contract regarding possible misuse of the Turkish A400M fleet?
  • By which EU Member State has the current maintenance contract for the Turkish A400M fleet been licensed?

I have not received any concrete answers:

Airbus states that it is acting "in strict compliance with its contractual obligations, the laws of the Nations and European law". Furthermore, the company points to "confidentiality provisions" in the contracts and refers me to OCCAR.

And OCCAR? OCCAR also refers to confidentiality provisions and states in all earnestness that I should contact Turkey itself.

Thus, none of the parties involved are really trying to address the problem – and neither is the Federal Government. This is demonstrated by its answer to a question by Agnieszka Brugger (MP, Green Party). Among other things, she wanted to know whether the German Federal Government, in its capacity as a member of the Board of Supervisors of OCCAR, had initiated a discussion about consequences for the maintenance of the A400M in Turkey.

The answer by Dr. Peter Tauber (Member of the German Bundestag and Parliamentary State Secretary at the time of the question):

"A400M is a joint European project with multinational manufacturing processes, in which Turkey is one of the programme nations. OCCAR represents the A400M nations and is the strategic provider, entering into contracts on behalf of the programme nations. Discussions along the lines of the question have not taken place in the Board of Supervisors."

In conclusion, the responsible authorities are turning a blind eye to what is happening in Turkey: I would have expected the Federal Government to at least seek dialogue with the other contracting parties, and put pressure on Turkey in order to comply with the arms embargo after the allegations had become public.

Apparently, none of this has happened: The "IRINI" mission continues - and so does the maintenance work for the A400M. The people in Libya are suffering and EU corporations make a profit from it; with the support of the Federal Government. This is not what a consistent arms export policy, in accordance with the rules we have given ourselves, looks like.
Cooperation within the EU context must not lead to a situation where no one feels responsible. On the contrary: we finally need transparent information on how such joint projects are carried out and who exactly is in charge of what. We must be able to have political control over the implementation of such projects at EU level, so that one government cannot – as it has been the case so far – withdraw from responsibility by simply referring to the other. Because of the current chaos of responsibilities, for which even the Federal Government does not feel responsible, arms companies continue to make profits - and German as well as European foreign policy initiatives prove ineffective.
Foto A400M: Julian Herzog, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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