Monday, 22 July 2013

Parliamentary control and transparency of arms exports

A new study commissioned by the German church aid organizations MISEREOR and Brot für die Welt calls for more involvement of the Bundestag in and improved oversight mechanisms for arms exports. The study „Parlamentarische Kontrolle und Transparenz von Rüstungsexporten“ (in German) by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) compares the control procedures in Germany with those of other European neighboring countries and the United States. The authors Jan Grebe and Sebastian Roßner call for a stronger public debate and more parliamentary control.

In Germany, arms exports are high on the political agenda. Its currently seems that they are used as a means to conduct foreign policy. Due to the long shelf-life of most weapon systems and military equipment, the consequences of arms exports abroad can, in the case of conflict, be severe and last longer than the very regime they were delivered to. And still, democratic control of arms exports in Germany is rather weak. Decisions are taken behind closed doors and only made public with a major delay.

This present study therefore deals with the question of how parliamentary and public control of arms exports can be improved. For this, it first evaluates procedures in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States and searches for ideas that may be applicable to Germany. The publication knowledgeably points to effects of German and European law on the involvement of parliament and suggests legal avenues of improving public debate, for instance by introducing the right of associations to initiate legal proceedings. 

Parliament and the public equally have a lot to gain from more transparency in the field of arms exports. To achieve this, first and foremost, the arms exports report of the Federal Government, the main reporting tool, must be reviewed. 

The study also supports a stronger obligation of the government to state reasons for arms export decisions: The government must explain to the Bundestag, the central body for regular and continuous democratic control of arms export decisions, the foreign- and security policy objectives it pursues with a certain arms export.


Press release „Study: More parliamentary control in German arms exports politics“ (in German, pdf)

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