BERLIN, June 3 Chancellor Angela Merkel's
cabinet will agree on Wednesday to make the approval process for
politically-sensitive arms exports more transparent, coalition
sources said, following a domestic backlash against rising
German sales to problem regions.
The Federal Security Council, a government committee that
meets in secret and includes the chancellor and cabinet members,
has responsibility for approving exports of military equipment
to areas of the world that are particularly delicate.
But until now the government was only obliged to report on
sales once a year in its annual arms report. Under the planned
changes, the Bundestag lower house of parliament will have to be
informed of such approvals within days, the sources said.
Germany was the third largest arms exporter in the world
after the United States and Russia from 2008 to 2012.
As sales totals have grown and a larger number of arms been
sent outside the European Union and NATO, to potentially
unstable regions, they have attracted more scrutiny in Germany,
a country still sensitive about its Nazi past and the role of
its arms makers in fuelling 19th and 20th century wars.
Last month, data was released showing German exports of
small arms and light weapons (SALW) rose 43 percent to a record
135.1 million euros last year, driven by sharp increases to
Middle East states like Saudi Arabia.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose Social
Democrats (SPD) are in coalition with Merkel's conservatives,
has vowed a much more cautious approach to licensing arms
exports, unnerving Germany's defence industry.
Tom Enders, the head of Airbus group, told Reuters
in May that he was worried about Germany's increasingly
restrictive arms export policy, saying it could lead to job cuts
in Germany beyond those that the company has already planned.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin;
Editing by Noah Barkin)