German arms exports rose 65% from January to mid-December 2019 compared to 2018 and hit a record of €7.95 billion ($8.8 billion), according to Economy Ministry figures.
Politicians from the socialist Left Party and the Greens requested the data, which was obtained by Germany’s DPA news agency.
The figures show government-approved exports of weapons, vehicles, and warships beat the previous record in 2015, which then led to three years of declines.
Germany’s total export licenses had already exceeded last year’s total of €5.3 billion by the middle of the year, the figures revealed.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier blamed the huge increase on a backlog caused by the monthslong wrangling to form a coalition following Germany’s 2017 federal election.
Hungary was biggest client
The largest number of German weapons deliveries in 2019 went to Hungary, where exports reached €1.77 billion, followed by Egypt on €802 million and the United States with €483 million.
Exports to Budapest made up almost a quarter of all approvals. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing, nationalist government is currently engaged in a massive military upgrade.
The share of the most controversial exports to so-called third countries that are neither European Union or NATO members fell from 52.9% to 44.2% compared to the previous year. But absolute sales rose by €1 billion and five of the top 10 export destinations were third countries.
The new figures have, meanwhile, raised concerns that Germany has continued to export weapons used in the war in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The Berlin government agreed to halt arms exports the countries involved in the conflict as part of the coalition deal reached in 2018. It later banned all exports to Saudi Arabia following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Weapons still meant for Yemen?
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, however, are founding members of the Saudi alliance fighting to restore the government of ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. This year, the UAE was Germany’s ninth-largest arms export destination, although in August, the country announced it would pull its troops out of Yemen.
“These sizeable figures show that the entire export control system is simply not working,” said Left Party politician Sevim Dagdelen.
Green Party arms expert Katja Keul said the figures show that despite the announcement of a more restrictive export policy, arms sales continue to rise.
“What we need is an Arms Export Control Act, which obliges the federal government to give foreign and security policy justifications for their decisions,” Keul said.