When it comes to the countries in which arms may be exported, the French and German governments sometimes disagree. For example, following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Germany has stopped exports to Saudi Arabia - to the chagrin of France, it is also about community-produced weapon systems such as the Airbus 330 MRTT air tanker.
At the same time, both countries have long been negotiating a contract for future joint arms projects. Originally, Germany had given its cooperation partner France a lot of freedom in the future export of such jointly developed weapons to third countries. This freedom should now be at least somewhat limited. According to information from the French news agency AFP, both sides agreed that Germany can block exports of French arms only if they contain more than 20 percent of German components.
The Federal Ministry of Economics, which is responsible for the arms export control, merely stated on request that the negotiations with Paris were "largely completed, but we can not anticipate the outcome of the ongoing final talks".
Agreement to be presented on Wednesday
According to Paris, the agreement will be presented next week Wednesday at the Franco-German Council of Ministers in Toulouse in southwestern France. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and French President Emmanuel Macron are also expected to attend.
The Treaty of Aachen, sealed in January by Merkel and Macron, provides for closer German-French cooperation in defense policy. Also, several projects are already planned, such as a new fighter aircraft called FCAS. The development of a new common tank is also being considered.
Weapons are complex systems, and large projects such as airplanes, helicopters, ships or tanks often supply parts to many countries. How exactly this 20 percent rule should look like is not yet clear. It must therefore be poured into a legally valid form. Also, it is not known how it will work if Germany delivers only a small share, but this is crucial for the weapon effect - such as the cannon of a tank.
There are several international treaties that affect the arms trade, such as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) of 2014 and the EU Common Position on Arms Exports in 2008. Thus, signatories such as Germany and France have committed not to sell weapons to countries, at risk of being used there to commit serious violations of international law.
Airbus thinks about "german-free"
However, the question of what constitutes such a violation is interpreted very differently. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been waging a war against Yemen, in which civilians are repeatedly attacked and killed. When Khashoggi was assassinated, Austria, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Finland imposed an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, as Germany did. France, however, continues to export tanks, corvettes, guns and aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
Armament companies protest against the embargoes and the German attitude. Sun departing Airbus boss Tom Enders had said, one considers how to make the products of the group "german-free" so could build without German parts. For example, Airbus is negotiating with Saudi Arabia the purchase of 48 Eurofighters and the delivery of A400M transport aircraft.