Germany set to lift ban on domestic army deployments

Defence ministry proposal to loosen rules comes in face of ‘security-political threats’

A Bundeswehr soldier: Germany’s army is currently forbidden from acting on domestic soil except in cases of national emergency. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

A Bundeswehr soldier: Germany’s army is currently forbidden from acting on domestic soil except in cases of national emergency. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

 

Germany may lift its ban on domestic military deployments as part of a wider security policy review, ending a post-war practice introduced following abuses during the Nazi era.

German law forbids the Bundeswehr from acting on domestic soil except in cases of national emergency, such as during recent floods.

But a draft foreign policy review proposes ending that ban given “the character and dynamic of current and future security-political threats”.

Such threats had made it necessary to “develop further, [and] put on a firm basis, an effective contribution of the Bundeswehr towards averting dangers on the borders for inner and outer security”.

The draft “white paper” was compiled by the defence ministry after a series of consultation rounds and now goes to government for further discussion. Since its last such review in 2006, the paper notes, a dramatic change has taken place in the world security situation and in expectations of Germany’s partners towards Berlin.

Islamic State attacks in Paris and Brussels have put Berlin on high alert for a similar attack and led to calls for domestic army deployments, a proposal which has been welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The paper warns of a growing difficulty matching Germany’s “growing responsibilities” and increased “ad-hoc” security alliances with its strict domestic controls on Bundeswehr activity, in particular an explicit parliamentary mandate for deployments and an obligation to act only in collective security alliances.

Security analysts admitted yesterday they were surprised by plans to loosen the rules on domestic military deployments, though they have been CDU policy for some time.

“The migration crisis and [Islamic State] attacks have brought this back onto the agenda,” said Dr Henning Riecke, security analyst with Germany’s Council on Foreign Relations. “But many people will view this as a sham debate, given long-running demands for greater resources for those already responsible for domestic security.”

Internal security

Bundeswehr

Internal security is the preserve of federal and state authorities who complain they are struggling with the new responsibilities.

The proposal was attacked by Dr Merkel’s junior coalition partners. Social Democrat foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned: “Any constitution change to allow domestic deployments of the Bundeswehr will not happen with the SPD.”

The opposition Left party condemned the move while the Green Party warned of a looming defence policy “shift to the right”.