PARIS --- France and Germany have reached a tentative agreement on arms exports, after Berlin agreed not to block French military equipment exports with less than 20% of German components or parts, the French website La Tribune reported Sept. 17 citing several unnamed sources.
La Tribune’s report confirms a Sept. 14 report by Le Monde which first mentioned the agreement, and say that the hitherto very tense relations on this issue between Germany and France are easing.
"The text is reasonable," a French source told La Tribune. Berlin will not oppose the exports of French manufacturers provided that the level of German content or components does not exceed 20% of the entire equipment.
If implemented, the agreement would go a long way to unblocking several French export contracts that are being held up by Berlin’s refusal to authorize export of major German-made components. This is currently the case for Meteor air-to-air missile made by MBDA in the UK, and whose sale to Saudi Arabia is being blocked as its rocket motor and warhead are both made in Germany.
The Ministry of the Armed Forces says "at this stage the discussions are progressing very well and a formal agreement could certainly be reached within a few weeks." This is reflected in Berlin's decision not to hinder the sale to the United Arab Emirates of two Naval Group Gowind corvettes powered by German MTU engines, because of these are dual-use equipment, according to several sources.
However, despite its desire to relieve the pressure between the two countries, Berlin unveiled in late June a guidance document detailing its new political principles for arms export that further tighten Germany’s restrictive policy in this area.
Restrictive export rules
Thus, in the case of the export of weapons in which German components are involved, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Defense, under the supervision of the Chancellor’s office, will evaluate whether to authorize these sales.
Germany "will carefully consider the value of cooperation and the principle of a restrictive arms export policy, taking into account the human rights criterion," the policy document states. As a result, any agreement reached between Berlin and Paris could be weakened very quickly if the German Parliament was consulted by the Chancellery for co-operative programs such as the future European Combat Aircraft Program (SCAF) and Tank (MGCS).
But the document cites five cases where arms exports would be blocked: countries at war (except in the particular case of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter); countries where there are armed conflicts or high tensions that could be aggravated by exporting arms; countries where there is a reasonable suspicion of internal repression; countries where export is contrary to German national interests; and, finally, countries where the armaments relationship would be too burdensome for the third country and could undermine cooperation as a whole.
The German document also addresses cooperative programs. The Government reserves the right to oppose "certain export projects of the Cooperating Partner through consultations," which will undoubtedly create frictions between Berlin and its European partners, including France, if this opposition surfaces too often.