File Photo: German Parliament "Bundestag" (REUTERS)
The German parliament's budget committee on Wednesday postponed a decision on a 1-billion-euro ($1.11 billion) funding package for the military, including a deal to lease Israeli-made armed drones, sources told Reuters.
The committee, however, approved equipment packages for the army totalling 11 billion euros and that will include the purchase of five corvette warships for some two billion euros.
The Defence Ministry had warned against delays, saying the acquisition requests were urgently needed to modernise an army weakened by years of spending cuts.
A defence ministry spokesman told a regular government news conference before the approval: "It would be regrettable if a decision is not made during this legislative period as considerable projects to modernise the equipment of soldiers depend on this and they would be delayed."
Christine Lambrecht, a lawmaker from the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), had earlier said that the budget committee would delay a decision on the whole funding package as her party needed more time for consultations.
Lambrecht's comments were later contradicted by her colleagues from the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) who said a decision would be made on most of the military procurement deals.
"Of the 30 defence funding requests only seven will be postponed until next week's session," said CDU lawmaker Eckhardt Rehberg. "Ms. Lambrecht is clearly badly informed."
The SPD are junior coalition partners of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and their Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
The Defence Ministry is eager to get the requests approved before a general election on Sept. 24 as more delays could further hobble a military trying to rebuild after years of post-Cold War cuts and prepare for added responsibilities.
The army is also facing a probe into right-wing radicalism in its ranks.
Some SPD lawmakers have reservations about leasing Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) which can be armed and used to protect soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Mali.
The higher court in Duesseldorf in May dismissed a legal challenge by U.S. weapons maker General Atomics to Germany's plans to lease the drones from rival IAI. But the court this month said it had put the deal on hold again as it considers a complaint by General Atomics against its decision.
Some SPD lawmakers want the budget committee to delay a decision on the deal until a final court decision.
Germany already has three earlier versions of the Heron reconnaissance drone which are deployed in Afghanistan. They are maintained by Airbus and cannot be armed.
Germany is supposed to be taking on added responsibilities within NATO and the European Union.