German patrol boat offer to Angola sparks criticism


Germany said it was ready to sell patrol boats to Angola to boost links with the resource-rich country, sparking parliamentary criticism against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

On a visit to the southwest African country, Merkel offered industrial cooperation as well as six to eight coast guard vessels, saying the ships could be used for securing borders of a country that plays a role in regional stability.
“Germany is ready for for an energy and raw materials partnership,” Merkel said after meeting Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in the capital Luanda.

In exchange, Germany could help with infrastructure projects, education and agriculture, as well as security with the patrol boats, built by Bremen-based Luerssen shipyards, Reuters reports.

The offer of military equipment, which had been already authorised under the previous government, was siezed on by the centre-left opposition in Berlin, with the head of the Greens calling Merkel the “patron saint of the arms lobby”.

Claudia Roth, head of the conservationist party, added that Merkel’s move was in bad form following a disputed sale of battle tanks to Saudi Arabia which was revealed last week.

Another member of parliament, Rolf Muetzenich from the Social Democrats, pointed out that Germany’s own foreign ministry considers human rights to be lacking in the country.
“Angola is not an exemplary democracy,” he told newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger. “Moreover the presidential clan is clearly very succeptible to corruption.”

In Luanda, dos Santos underlined his will to undertake political reforms in his country, which emerged from almost three decades of civil war in 2002.

Oil and gas-producing Angola expects economic growth of eight percent this year, a figure Dos Santos said could reach double-digits next year. Trade with Germany dried up during the economic crisis, but jumped early this year.

Merkel said earlier at a bilateral business conference that German companies had concrete projects, including liquid natural gas operations from 2012 and cooperation in renewable energy.

Dos Santos invited German companies to take part in the construction of three hydroelectric power plants worth $1 billion, and companies also have their eyes on the development of fibre-optic networks, universities and schools.

Turning to political reforms, Merkel said Angola had made great progress since its civil war but could do more to boost transparency, fight corruption and ensure freedom of expression.

Merkel’s centre-right coalition slumped in a new poll on Wednesday after it had a a dismal week marked by an unpopular decision on tax cuts and the tank deal to Saudi Arabia, which the opposition tried unsuccessfully to thwart.