BERLIN, July 11 (Xinhua) -- The German government approved arms exports worth 5.3 billion euros (5.9 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of 2019, which was more than in the entire previous year, official data revealed on Thursday.
Compared to the first six months of the previous year, exports more than doubled in the first half of 2019, according to the response by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy to an inquiry by Green party parliamentarian Omid Nouripour sent to Xinhua.
Over the past three years, the volume of German arms exports had declined steadily. In 2017 exports were still worth 6.24 billion euros but dropped to 4.8 billion euros last year.
At 40 percent, the share of German arms exports to countries outside NATO and the European Union (EU) in the first half of 2019 was lower than recent years, when it reached well over 50 percent.
One third of the total export volume was accounted for by Hungary, which is both a member of the EU and NATO. German arms exports to Hungary totaled 1.76 billion euros.
In May this year, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban announced that his government would double spending on the armed forces. "Hungary's defense is not a task for NATO or the EU, but for us. There can be no strong Hungary without a strong army," said Orban.
According to the German economy ministry, the second most important recipient country of arms exports in the first half of 2019 was Egypt, at 801.8 million euros, followed by South Korea at 277.7 million euros.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the sixth most important recipient of German arms exports in the first half of this year at 206.1 million euros.
Both Egypt and the UAE are involved in the ongoing war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia had formed a coalition of predominantly Arab countries in 2015 to support the Yemeni government in its fight against the Iranian-sponsored Shiite Huthi rebels.
The German government set itself the goal in March 2018 of severely restricting arms exports to the states directly involved in the Yemen war.
Germany's arms deliveries to Egypt and the UAE "violate coalition agreements and arms export guidelines", said Omid Nouripour, Green Party spokesperson for foreign policy.
"These record figures make absurd the declarations of a restrictive arms export policy", said Nouripour.
Only two weeks ago, the German government had set itself stricter rules for the approval of arms exports. The new rules prohibit the sale of small arms to countries outside the EU and NATO.