BERLIN --- Germany’s latest restrictions on arms exports risk making Berlin a pariah in Europe’s defense industry, threatening future collaboration on weapons development and its own ambitions to foster a common European defense policy.
Germany’s decision to unilaterally halt all shipments of military equipment to Saudi Arabia in November after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has brought long-standing differences between Berlin and its European partners over arms controls to a tipping point.
The move has put a question mark over billions of euros of military orders, including a 10 billion-pound deal to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Riyadh, and has prompted some firms such as Airbus to strip German components from some of their products.
With British defense contractor BAE Systems, the company behind the Eurofighter Typhoon, warning that the German embargo would weigh on its financial performance, London and Paris are racing to convince Berlin to lift it.
The Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, want to keep the arms freeze against Saudi Arabia in place and reach agreement on a more restrictive export policy, keen to avoid further losses among German voters who are cautious on arms sales.
Merkel’s conservatives, keen to smooth the rift with France and Britain, are piling pressure on the SPD by accusing them of jeopardizing German industry and jobs.
But the SPD notes that the coalition parties agreed last year to halt future arms sales to any countries involved in the Yemen conflict, which includes Saudi Arabia.
Paralyzed by domestic political squabbling, Berlin on Friday put off a decision about extending the embargo beyond its current March 9 deadline till the end of the month, fuelling concerns among European allies and industry.
“We see no way to resolve the issue at this point,” said one European industry official. “There’s a complete stalemate.” (end of excerpt)
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