The Whys and Wherefores

What is the purpose of this database on German Arms Exports?

This database intends to contribute to a greater transparency on arms exports. Despite the fact that a "restrictive arms export policy" is part of the common rhetoric of each and every government coalition and no politician would argue against the issue of transparency, in fact nothing really has changed. Fourteen years after the first annual report was published the government is still not able or willing to provide sound figures of the actual arms exports conducted. New and different forms of Global Licences further impede any accountability and clear understanding of German arms exports policy.

The annual reports bear witness to this: Licencing continues unabated and remains on a high level. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Dual-Use-Goods are not even included. The same holds true for engines which can be found in the tanks and ships of many armies worldwide. These don't even need an export licence!

The annual reports basically only allow an evaluation of a rough general trend in arms exports. A reasonable, informed and factual public discussion about current and planned arms deals is not being encouraged.

The database on German Arms Exports wants to shed some light on the arms exports and policy. The information provided here should not be seen as an end in itself but instead will hopefully lead to further independent research, verification and engagement. Due to the highly secretive nature of the arms trade industry ubiquitous secrecy the information presented in this database can only be considered partially reliable (more in the User Guide for the database).

Beginnings of the project

The idea for this project reaches back as far as the end of the 1990's when Otfried Nassauer of BITS developed the first concept. At that time the SPD and Green Party were revising the Political Principles on Arms Exports. It was already clear that the European Union would go ahead with publishing an annual export. A "restrictive arms export policy" was a frequently-used term often-heard phrase of the day. The only thing lacking was a transparent mechanism permitting an independent check. A first step towards some kind of public monitoring - in the eyes of BITS at the time – might  be a free, publicly available Website collecting all available information on German arms exports.

So after 15 years of contemplation and doubts this idea is now being implemented. Much of the background information found on this homepage was collected by Otfried Nassauer, respectively by BITS, and kindly made available to the project. The same holds true for a considerable amount of information on specific arms deals included in the database.