Germany: terror attacks increase pressure on Angela Merkel in her own CDU party

Strong whiff of populism in new laws proposed by state security ministers

 

Angela Merkel has seen growing political resistance to her commendable open-door policy to refugees, not least in her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) heartlands. And important state elections are looming, not to mention next year’s federal poll.

Not surprisingly, largely in response to such concerns, sections of the German chancellor’s party are floating new tough law and order measures to target the small numbers of refugees and home-grown jihadis who may be tempted to get involved in terror attacks. After four incidents last month in the south (two with IS links) that left 15 dead, a government spokesman warns that Germany is facing an “ongoing high terror risk”.

But the 27 measures being proposed in a paper from CDU state interior ministers have a strong whiff of populism that critics say, with some justification, will do little to ease security fears.

Doctors are alarmed by the suggestion that their obligation to patient confidentiality could be waived in cases where they have patients they sense may be national security threats. While they already have an obligation to report patients who pose a direct threat to a third person, they worry that drawing attention to the obligation, let alone extending it, will drive patients away or make them less willing to be open with doctors.

The paper also suggests a ban on the full body veil for women, hiring an additional 15,000 police by 2020, greater video surveillance at transport hubs and public places, and revoking a law allowing dual nationality. The latter has been justified by one CDU spokesman as a response to the 40,000 local Turks who last weekend rallied in Cologne in support of Turkey’s President Erdogan, allegedly demonstrating that they had no loyalty to the German state. Such a nonsensical rationale simply panders to anti-Turkish prejudice. It does nothing to bolster security.

A ban on public wearing of the burka – actually on the veil, or niqab, not the full-length dress – also has dubious security benefits. The measure has proved deeply controversial in France and Belgium, although upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. But there is no evidence it helps in the fight against terrorism. Many feminists view the veil as inherently oppressive of women, no matter what their own view, while others argue that ethnically targeted laws can contribute to radicalisation.

Dr Merkel insisted reassuringly on Wednesday there were no immediate plans to implement many of the CDU proposals, and the federal interior minister Thomas de Maizière yesterday specifically opposed calls to abolish rules allowing the children of foreigners born in Germany to have dual citizenship. He said he would not seek to ban niqabs. How long their restraint will prevail in a party increasingly jittery about its election prospects is another matter.

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