German Arms Exports or the Greens’ Endless Dilemma (A Play in 3 Acts)
(Source:; posted Oct. 19, 2022)

By Alistair Davidson
This is a mini-series about the endless dilemma of the German Green party over their country’s arms export policy. This play, currently being performed on the political stage in Berlin, comprises three-acts.

Act 1, Part 1: the Exposition, or when hardliners show their teeth

Act one: The conflict of the plot is discovered with hardliners entering the stage

In classical theatre, Act One is ‘The exposition’, i.e, the introduction of the characters that the protagonist will meet, and describes the dramatic premise and inciting incidents – especially one that sets the events of the story in motion occurs approximately halfway through the first act.

The protagonist: Mrs Hannah Neumann, a staunch opponent to arms exports

The key actor is not yet Mrs. Baerbock or Mr. Habeck but a quite unknown European MP, a ‘German Green’: Mrs. Hannah Neumann.

To defence experts, however, she is far from being an obscure MP: she published a report in July 2020 on Arms exports (implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, 2020/2003(INI)) which has been viewed as THE matrix of the current debate in Germany.

Adopted in a plenary session on the 24th of September, 2020, by a narrow majority (341 in favour, 124 against, 230 abstentions), her report was a key milestone in the attempt of the Greens to curb arms exports. These are its most important points:

-- European market to avoid exports (n°1): the defence industry helps Europe to defend itself…but to avoid exports, the State members should give the priority to European Defence systems.
-- Transparency. State members should be more transparent on data on arm’s exports (n°4 & 5).
-- Sanctions. The non-compliance of a state member to the EU 8 criteria for exports should be sanctioned (n°19).
-- Values versus exports. The business model should not lead to prefer exports to values (n°28).
-- EU controls. The systems developed thanks to the Defence European funds should be associated with a tight control of future exports (n°39);
-- Tracing & tracking exports. A ‘I-trace’ systems should be implemented (recommendation n°40) and training of EU civil servants should be reinforced (recommendation n°51);
-- A Register to trace. The items financed by the Funds and then exported should be put into a register so that it should be visible if the criteria of the EU have been respected or not n°44);
-- Embargo on several countries. The report recalls that some countries are under embargo or should be placed under it (UAE & KSA, Egypt, Turkey (n°10 & 11).

Scene two: October 2021, her second blow to arms exports

The field having been cleared by her 2020 report, Mrs. Neumann took an extra step with her “regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council setting up a Union regime for the control of arms exports” .

This regulation takes up in a more formal way many of the provisions of the report of July 2020:

--Article 4, paragraph 2 proposes to prohibit any export to countries violating some basic criteria such as:
*Observation of international disarmament treaties
*Violation of fundamental principles/humanitarian law
*internal conflicts
*regional conflicts
*Possibility of using exported materials against Member States and their regional allies
*Attitude of the buyer with regard to terrorism, the international community and international (and humanitarian) law
*Re-export of the material to a third country
*Economic and financial capacity of the buyer country
*Possibility of corruption

--Chapter III (application of the Bill) is the very heart of her proposals:
*Article 8 obliges each Member State to justify before the European Commission the reasons for which it authorized an export when the committee of experts prohibited it.
*In Article 9, the Bill creates a common basis for country analyses (known as the "common risk assessment body") which serves as justifications for the decisions of the Commission and as a reference for any decision from state members.

*This establishes a list of countries under embargo, updated every six months with the help of independent experts gathered in a committee with representatives of the Member States (Articles 10 & 11 & 12).

*Article 13 sanctions a Member State which has neglected the criteria of Article 4 and authorized an export; the responsible company will be excluded from the European defence fund.

--Chapter IV organizes the control system between the exporter, the Member State and the Commission (taking into account the opinion of the European committee, keeping detailed records, including on equipment manufacturers and brokers).

--Chapter V gives the Commission the role of ensuring the proper execution of the law (Article 17).

--Chapter VI organizes activity reports: report from Member States to be sent to the Commission, which will write a public annual report.

Scene three: The Green election platform: a first victory for Neumann’s ideas

In March 18, 2021 (page 132), the platform of the Greens for the general elections of September, dealt with the specific issue of the arms export control. It shed light on five major points:
--Exports of arms and defense equipment to dictators, regimes violating human rights and to war zones are prohibited
--In order to reduce arms exports, we want to put in place a common and restrictive EU control regime with strict rules and sanctions options.
--Co-operation with the defense & security sector of other States in order to ensure compliance with democratic, constitutional and human rights criteria
--In the case of Germany, a draft law on the control of arms exports, will introduce a right of collective action in the event of violations of this law and an effective control regime on the end-user
--Hermès warranties for arms exports are not allowed anymore.

Scene four: November 2021, Neumann influences Coalition contract

Released on the 12th of October 2021, this regulation has largely influenced the German Coalition Contract of the 24th of November, which took the main idea: an EU harmonization is urgently needed.

As Mrs Neumann wrote it on her website: “Currently, export decisions for arms produced in the EU are taken at the national level. Member states are expected to comply with the so-called "Common Position", which sets out eight criteria for exporting arms to countries outside the EU and aims to prevent arms exports to crisis regions or exports that contribute to human rights abuses. However, the criteria are currently interpreted differently by each EU member state. This leads to loopholes or to different, sometimes even contradictory national export decisions and practices. An obvious example is arms exports to Saudi Arabia, where several EU Member States - including Germany - imposed a ban, while others - such as France - continued to export arms.”

No doubt Mrs. Neumann was the largest influencer of the Coalition contract. On page 116, the newly-formed coalition explained its doctrine on arms exports: restrictive, transparent, contained in a law and harmonized at the European level:

--“For a restrictive arms export policy, we need more binding rules and therefore want to coordinate a corresponding European regulation on arms exports with our European partners.
--We advocate a national law on the control of arms exports.
--Our aim is to anchor the EU common position with its eight criteria as well as the political principles of the federal government for the export of weapons of war and other armaments, the principles of small arms and the extension of post-delivery checks in such a law.
--Exceptions can only be made in justified individual cases which must be documented in a publicly understandable manner. We will make the arms export control report transparent.
--We do not issue arms export licenses to states proven to have been directly involved in the war in Yemen."

(To be continued)


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