German weapons manufacturers are making more money than perhaps ever before when it comes to exporting small arms, raking in the highest sales since government record-keeping began in the late 1990s, the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.
The value of approved exports in 2012 was about double that of the year before, with small arms and their components bringing in some €76.15 million ($98.5 million), the paper said, citing an Economy Ministry response to a parliamentary inquiry by the far-left Left party.
The lowest level of small arms exports was €37.9 million in 2011, down from the second-highest level of €70.4 million in 2009. Among the small arms contracts approved in the record year of 2012, Berlin approved some €6.5 million in exports to Saudi Arabia -- a sum that amounted to more than half of such weapons sent to the Middle East and North Africa. Sales of ammunition for these weapons, however, dropped from €34.6 million in 2011 to €18 million in 2012.
Germany defines small arms according to European Union standards, which specify them as including automatic pistols, machine guns and both partially and fully automatic weapons .
Ending Up in War Zones
"The export of small arms is particularly controversial internationally because, compared to heavy weaponry, they kill far more victims worldwide," the paper wrote. This is of special concern in developing countries, where such weapons are easy to come by and often subsequently end up in war zones as a result of illegal trade.
"Small arms are the 21st century's weapons of mass destruction," Left party parliamentarian Jan van Aken told the paper, calling for a ban on the small arms exports. "Once exported, they are passed from war to war in a completely unregulated manner."
German weapons have cropped up in every current conflict around the world, van Aken claimed, adding that, "even in Afghanistan, the Taliban is shooting at German soldiers with German weapons."
In its answer to the inquiry, the Economy Ministry said that it applies "strict standards for issuing approvals for the export of small arms to third countries, especially developing countries," the paper reported. "Third countries" are defined as nations that are members of neither the European Union nor NATO, but the definition excludes non-member NATO allies, such as Australia.
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the ministry declined to reveal more exact current figures on the issue.