Container, symbolising the topic of exports of military equipment

© van den Dries

In 2019, individual licences (i.e. licences for single transactions) worth €8.015 billion were issued for the export of military equipment. 55.9% of these were for exports to EU/NATO and NATO-equivalent countries, which are linked by a particularly close security policy partnership with Germany. Loyalty to the NATO alliance and to the EU are key principles for Germany. The high proportion of licences issued for exports to the EU, NATO and NATO-equivalent countries is due not least to the increased defence spending by these countries.

Export licences worth €3.53 billion were issued for third countries. This figure is roughly in line with the average for third countries over the last five years. Of the total of 2,881 licences issued for exports of military equipment to third countries, only 43 licences referred to the export of war weapons.

The total value of the licences for small arms and parts for small arms in 2019 amounted to €69.49 million. Again, EU, NATO and NATO-equivalent countries accounted for the bulk – 99.4% – of the value of the licences. This means that almost all the licensed exports of small arms were destined for Germany’s EU and NATO partners.

Overall, it can be said that the total value of the licences for a reference period is not, on its own, a suitable yardstick for the evaluation of export control policy. Any such assessment requires a case-based evaluation of licensing decisions in terms of the country of destination, the type of military equipment, and the envisaged use for the equipment, and must also bear in mind that large orders regularly result in substantial fluctuations in the licensing figures. In 2019, for example, a major procurement project of Hungary, Germany’s EU partner, accounted for almost a quarter of the total value of all individual export licences issued in the reference period.

Also, “military equipment” not only includes weapons like guns and tanks. “Military equipment” also comprises, for example, armoured vehicles for personal protection and embassies, mine-clearing equipment, communications equipment, NBC protective suits, radar equipment and camouflaged trucks.

The Report (in German) can be found here (PDF, 7 MB).