BERLIN, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- A group of peace activists analyzing the German arms sector has accused the German government of hiding weapons export figures at a time of booming sales.
The Joint Conference Church and Development, or GKKE, is used to having a hard time getting their hands on valid export data but it has never been as difficult as this year, they said this week in Berlin.
Neither the German government nor the European Council have released the number of arms export permits Germany granted in 2009, the GKKE said at the release of the group's new report on weapons sales, which had to be based solely on parliamentary documents and international studies.
"The German government has reached a new low point when it comes to information, transparency and cooperation," said Karl Juesten, head of the GKKE. "That's unacceptable and scandalous."
It's especially worrisome as Germany is a rising power in the arms trade business. A study by the U.S. Congressional Research Service puts Germany, with an 8 percent share of the global market, at No. 3 behind the United States (41 percent) and Russia (10.5 percent).
Bernhard Moltmann of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt said he estimates German arms export permits to reach around $6.7 billion in 2009 -- about the same as last year.
The outlook for the future looks even friendlier. The value of new contracts signed in 2009 has tripled compared to a year earlier, the GKKE said.
"That's why we expect … arms export permits to rise over the next years," Juesten said.
Probably in a bid to boost the arms industry at a time of constrained defense budgets, Germany in 2009 unlocked $2.57 billion in loan guarantees to importers of German-made arms -- a staggering increase from $28 million in 2008. Loan guarantees went to Abu Dhabi, Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Pakistan, a developing country in a volatile conflict region.
"That should set off the alarm bells," Juesten said.
The experts also pointed to the danger of the exports of small weapons from Germany, such as guns and rifles.
Germany in 2009 granted export permits for 34,401 small arms, about the same as last year, the GKKE said, citing U.N. figures. More than 8,000 small arms went to non-NATO members with around 2,500 assault rifles delivered to Saudi-Arabia, for example.
In a bid to contain the transfer of arms in potential crisis regions, the GKKE called for more parliamentary oversight for the German arms sector. Even sales to NATO members should be carefully checked, the group said, citing human rights abuses in Turkey, financing problems in Greece and corruption allegations plaguing Portugal.