Federal Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht has called for the restrictive German rules on arms exports to be relaxed. In a keynote speech on defense policy before the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP), the SPD politician said on Monday in Berlin that with a view to European cooperation on armaments projects, Germany was "in an obligation to deliver: To this day, we make such cooperation complicated by the fact that we rely on special rules insist on the export of armaments".
Which partner should invest in projects with Germany if you always have to fear that Germany will then prevent exports and thus make refinancing more difficult, she asked. In the case of large armaments projects such as the joint development of a new fighter jet with France and Spain or a new battle tank, also with France, the development costs are so high that, in the majority of independent experts and industry representatives alike, they can only be refinanced through exports.
Lambrecht went on to say that Germany places itself above its European partners with its reservation of values. "But what do European values even mean when we say to our democratic partners: your morals are not enough for us?" she added. It's not about delivering to "rogue states". "If France, Italy and Spain say it's acceptable, can we opt out? Veto it? I don't think so."
Here the European idea, which Germany is happy to promote for good reason, makes the federal government directly responsible. "So we have to get to the German export rules in order to give cooperation on defense goods a powerful boost in European policy," Lambrecht demanded. That must also be reflected in the national security strategy, which is currently being developed in the Federal Foreign Office under Green Minister Annalena Baerbock.
With her statements, Lambrecht is on a course of confrontation with parts of the Greens, but also with her own party. In the coalition agreement, the traffic light parties had agreed to make the licensing practice for arms exports more restrictive, largely under pressure from the Greens and the SPD Left Party, including parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich, who has been campaigning for exports to be limited for years.
Deliveries of armaments to so-called third countries that are neither members of NATO nor the European Union should only be possible "in justified individual cases, which must be documented in a publicly comprehensible manner". The Ministry of Economic Affairs, headed by the Green Robert Habeck, should draw up a national arms export control law, and the federal government also wanted to work towards stricter rules in the EU.
The SPD co-chair Saskia Esken said in a first reaction that Lambrecht's initiative must be discussed widely in the social democratic party and also in parliament. It is obvious that the existing structures for equipping the Bundeswehr and the procurement of armaments are not running smoothly, she said. That's what it's all about in this context. That's why you have to talk about it.
Recently, Federal Foreign Minister Baerbock had repeatedly expressed her unease with the restrictive German rules, but without directly questioning them. She keeps hearing from colleagues in Africa, for example, that Germany doesn't supply them with helicopters that they then have to buy from Russia.