KEY POINTS

  • Germany sold billions of euros in arms in 2019, with Hungary, Algeria and Egypt the top countries buying German weapons
  • Some German politicians believe the arms sales could be destabilizing the Middle East
  • Germany continues to have a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia 

Germany has authorized a record of 7.95 billion euros ($8.8 billion) in arm sales in 2019, topping its last record from 2015. 

Germany’s top buyer of arms was Hungary, selling 1.77 billion euros ($1.97 billion) in arms to Budapest. Algeria was the second-highest buyer, at 843 million euros ($942 million), then Egypt at 651 million euros ($727 million). 

The UAE and Qatar were also on the list. Germany’s arms sales to Middle Eastern nations could draw scrutiny, due to their controversial human rights records. Egypt, under President Fatah Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has seen numerous crackdowns on freedom of expression, with critical news agencies raided by government forces, and opposition protesters detained in large numbers. The UAE and Qatar have also suppressed anti-government voices, and have been criticized by human rights groups for their treatment of migrant labor.

Multiple German politicians have alleged that arms sales are destabilizing the Middle East region. The UAE, for example, has been involved in the controversial war in Yemen. 

"If you export weapons of war into crisis regions to countries that are not bound to us by any kind of alliance, you are of course destabilizing the region," Green Party parliamentarian Katja Keul told Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, saying that German arms exports have doubled since last year. 

"All this talk about a restrictive arms policy is falling like a house of cards. Numbers also show that the entire system of export control isn't working. We now need clear, legal bans for arms sales," German Left Party parliamentarian Sevim Dagdelen tweeted in response to the numbers. 

Arms sales were a controversial topic after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. Various countries, such as Germany, suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to the killing. Germany extended the arms ban to Saudi Arabia until March 31, 2020, when it will again be considered. Other nations such as the U.S. and France continue to sell arms to Riyadh.