Published On: Thu, Jan 11th, 2024

Germany lifts veto on sale of British-made fighter jets in major U-turn | World | News


Germany has lifted its five-year block on the export of European fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, signalling a renewed commitment to strengthen European defence collaboration.

The decision comes as a reversal of Germany’s stance since 2018 when it blocked the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, jointly manufactured with the UK and other partners, over human-rights concerns following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, during a recent visit to Israel, stated that the government no longer sees a reason to oppose British plans to sell more Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia.

The initial veto had caused tensions with the UK, leading to threats of pushing Germany out of production to facilitate the sale.

Experts view this U-turn as a clear message to European partners that Germany aims to become more reliable in defence exports, removing a significant obstacle to closer European defence collaboration. The fluctuating nature of Berlin’s arms export policy, influenced by changing government coalitions and ethical considerations, has been a source of concern for European allies and the domestic defence industry.

Pia Fuhrhop, a researcher from the German Council on Foreign Relations, highlighted the problem of German policy unpredictability, stating that it poses challenges for European defence projects and makes partner countries perceive German policy as unreliable.

She told Euractiv: “This fluctuation is quite problematic for some European defence projects, and partner countries find German policy quite unreliable.”

The Association of the German Aerospace Industry (BDLI) stressed the importance of international sales for making joint European defence projects profitable. The potential financial pressures on the industry were highlighted if the Saudi deal were not approved. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly lobbied Chancellor Scholz with the British defence industry in mind.

This change in Germany’s stance aligns with a broader trend among European countries, including France, which considers international exports crucial to sustaining production capacity, as expressed by Natalia Pouzyreff, an MP of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party.

The decision to embrace the Saudi deal by a Green minister indicates a shift in German policy, highlighting the prioritisation and enhancement of European defence relations, especially in the context of Russia‘s war in Ukraine.

Germany’s coalition, consisting of Social Democrats, Greens, and Liberals, initially pledged to restrain weapons exports, particularly to countries involved in the Yemen civil war, in its 2021 government manifesto.

However, the recent U-turn suggests a departure from this cautious defence policy in response to Russia‘s invasion, leading to a record level of defence exports in 2023, according to the economy ministry.



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