Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel has published the new principles underpinning the Federal Government's licensing policy with regard to exports of small arms and light weapons, including ammunitions and accessories, to third countries. The new small-arms principles (PDF: 44 KB) will apply in addition to the Political Principles Adopted by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Export of War Weapons and Other Military Equipment of 19 January 2000.

Minister Gabriel said: "For many people, the term arms exports conjures up images of submarines and tanks, and not so much of what is referred to as small arms. But it is these small arms that cause the most deaths in civil wars. Across the globe, they outnumber other military equipment by a wide margin. And of course, oppressive regimes make use of small arms to oppress the opposition. On the other hand, small arms are part of the standard issue used by governments to carry out legitimate, sovereign tasks, including border control. By adopting the new small-arms principles, the Federal Government has further tightened the rules that apply in its licensing procedures for exports of these highly sensitive weapons."

One of the key new features of the small-arms principles is the requirement for buyers to specifically commit to refraining from passing on the weapons to a different recipient either abroad or in the recipient's own country, without first seeking approval from the German Government. This requirement goes beyond the standard clause on re-exports that already applies. Another new feature is the fact that exports will now be cleared on a "new for old" basis. Where additional weapons are being procured, this principle changes to "buy new, destroy when discarded". More specifically, this means that the governments of recipient countries must commit to destroying the weapons that are being replaced by the imported arms. Where there is a credible need for additional weapons, meaning there are no old weapons to destroy, the government of the recipient country must commit to destroying the newly procured weapons as soon as they are discarded. The small-arms principles also state that no approvals will be given for any new production lines for the manufacturing of small arms in third countries. Some types of weapons will not be cleared for exports to private end-users.

In the absence of an international standard definition of small arms, the new small-arms principles follow the definition used in the Joint Action of the EU of 12 July 2002. This means that machine guns, submachine guns, fully automatic rifles and semi-automatic rifles, if developed and/or introduced as a model for an armed force, are all covered by the small-arms principles, which also specifically extend to sniper rifles and pump guns.