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German Churches blast “lamentable” EU arms exports controls

The German Catholic and Protestant Churches have blasted as “lamentable” current EU arms exports controls.

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The Catholic and Protestant Joint Church and Development Conference (GKKE) presented in Berlin December 17 its annual arms export report.

In that presentation the GKKE signalled out for particular criticism the German government’s weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt.

“Algeria ranks first as the recipient country among the problematic third countries [non-EU and non-NATO] in 2018, in fourth place is Saudi Arabia”, denounced GKKE group of experts president Simone Wisotzki.

“In the first half of 2019, Egypt takes a top position as a buyer of German arms exports among the third countries.

“Germany is cooperating with the military regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi that is being criticized for torturing opposition figures to death and kidnapping and killing dissidents.

“The United Arab Emirates could also count on individual export permits in 2019”, Wisotzki deplored.

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Wisotzki highlighted that these top recipient countries of German weapons – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt – are not only making war in Yemen but also supporting a rebel government in Libya, thus leading Germany to violate a UN arms embargo there.

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The German government had promised in early 2018 to stop arms exports to “countries directly involved in the Yemen War”.

But arms deals made before that date are still being honoured, and light weapons not used in the conflict are still being shipped.

Why it matters

Wisotzki explained that although German government authorisations for arms exports have fallen for the third consecutive year, the 2015-2017 period was still the stretch in which the most government approvals were granted in the last two decades.

Arms exports to third countries are a major concern, the GKKE expert said, given that they represented more than half – 53% – of all German weapons consignments abroad.

The Protestant president of the GKKE, Martin Dutzmann, criticised the German government’s latest July promises to limit arms exports as merely a “declaration of intentions” that, moreover, don’t include restrictions on the supply of munitions.

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Dutzmann explained that the October invasion of northern Syria by Turkey – that last a country to which Germany exported weapons to the value of 250 million euros just in the first eight months of 2019 – “shows that a legally binding law [on German arms exports] is more necessary than ever”.

For the record

For his part, the Catholic president of the GKKE, Karl Jüsten, lamented that the EU “wasted the opportunity to achieve a substantial consolidation” of European arms exports controls with a September Common Position that, in Jüsten’s opinion, didn’t go far enough.

Although Jüsten conceded some improvements in transparency, “the general picture of the control of European arms exports is lamentable”, he deplored.

The Catholic president of GKKE called for a “coherent and restrictive arms export policy” to form part of the EU’s common foreign affairs, security and defence priorities, and for stronger powers of vigilance for the European Parliament.

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“The war in Yemen is a sign of the urgency with which we need a restrictive European policy of export control”, Justen urged.

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