France Resents Germany for Blocking Joint Arms Exports, Including over Saudi Arabia

France Resents Germany for Blocking Joint Arms Exports, Including over Saudi Arabia

Germany’s unpredictable, “politicized” arms exports policies and slow licensing are creating an “untenable” situation, France has complained through its envoy in Berlin.

France’s seeming discontent with Germany blocking joint arms exports for political reasons has been expressed in a rather strong-worded op-ed by the French Ambassador in Berlin, Anne-Marie Descotes.

Descotes’ complaint that German policies risk undermining the Franco-German military-industrial cooperation comes after recently the German government extended until the end of March a temporary ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which was imposed over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Germany’s freeze of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, however, have angered France and its other European partners as they put at risk military orders worth billions of euros.

Especially notable is Saudi Arabia’s order for 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets worth EUR 11.65 billion (USD 13.18 billion, GBP 10 billion).

The executive of the Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon order would be led by Britain’s BAE Systems but German plants are supposed to produce a third of the components for the planes.

In her essay entitled “From German-Free to Mutual Trust”, and published in German by Federal Academy for Security Policy of the German military, the French envoy warns the “politicization” of arms sales abroad might endanger joint ventures for jets, drones, and tanks.

Descotes writes that Germany has a tendency to see arms exports as a domestic political issue, leading more and more companies to develop “German-free” weapons, i.e. evading components from Germany.

“[German export policies and licensing rules] have serious consequences for our bilateral cooperation in the defense sector and the strengthening of European sovereignty,” the French Ambassador in Berlin complained, as cited by DW.

She emphasized the unpredictability of the former and the long waiting lines for the latter as particular problems.

“This situation is untenable… Realistic export possibilities on the basis of clear and predictable rules are an essential prerequisite for the survival of our European defense industry,” the French diplomat declared.

She argued that arms exports were needed to generate sales volume and lower arms prices, or else European countries would have to up military spending to maybe reach 4% of their GDP  (from fewer than 2% at present).

Descotes raised the well-known issue of the lack of standard procedures for the purchase of arms in EU countries, a long-time policy goal of France but one opposed by Germany.

In her words, that has led EU member states to choose arms sellers from outside the European Union, thus fragmenting the European market.

Descotes made clear the French position it was unacceptable that Berlin could block other countries’ exports of weapons systems even if only minor components from them were made in Germany.

The diplomat argued France and Germany ought to hammer out a bilateral accord in which each one would be able to block the other’s arms exports only in exceptional circumstances such as direct interest or national security.

The strong stance of the French Ambassador in Berlin comes just at the time of the launch of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly as part of the recently signed Aachen Treaty of Cooperation and Integration, with deepening of military cooperation featured prominently in the bilateral agenda.

(Banner image: French Assemblée Nationale President Richard Ferrand on Twitter)

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