Interior Minister plans major overhaul of German security powers

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Interior Minister plans major overhaul of German security powers
Thomas de Maizière. Photo: DPA

Interior minister Thomas de Maizière announced on Tuesday his intention to centralize Germany's security apparatus, pulling a wide range of powers in to Berlin.


In a guest article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, de Maizière said that he intends to bring control over several key security agencies to Berlin.

For historical reasons, including a rejection of the centralizing reforms of the Nazi party, but also due to Germany’s long history of decentralized power, many security competencies still remain at the level of the sixteen Bundesländer (states).

The Interior Minister signalled though his intention to abolish the state intelligence services and hand their powers to the BfV, the federal intelligence service.

The politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) also said that he intends to build up the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) - Germany’s version of the FBI - and to turn the federal police into “a real federal police force.”

“In order to make our country, and Europe with it, secure against crises, I consider this overhaul to be necessary,” he wrote.

De Maizière’s declaration appears to be an admission that Germany’s current security structure failed to prevent an attack on a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, which killed 12 people in December.

Since the terror attack, which has been claimed by Isis, it has emerged that the main suspect Anis Amri had been investigated by intelligence services in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on suspicion of planning a terror plot and had been categorized as a security threat.

But when he moved to Berlin in February 2016, a lack of communication between security services in the two states appears to have contributed to him being able to escape the attentions of police.

He wasn't seen for almost two months before he carried out his deadly attack.

NRW has since come in for stinging criticism from politicians who accuse it of having failed to take the risk Amri posed seriously enough.

“We need consistent rules and better control of those categorized as security threats,” the Interior Minister said, adding that security agencies “must be controlled at the federal level.”

He added that searches for fugitives must be conducted by the federal police, which “will work alongside the state police, but will be the central authority for searching for those who are in Germany without permission.”

Currently Germany’s federal police force have limited responsibility, being restricted to guarding the country’s borders and interstate transport routes.

The minister also proposed creating “deportation centres” near major airports run at the federal level.

People who have been told to leave Germany could be housed in these before their deportation, he suggested.

Amri’s attack on the Berlin Christmas market led to a renewed debate about deportation, as he had been told to leave the country in June 2016, but remained free in the months that Germany tried to get official documents about him from his home country of Tunisia.

De Maizière’s proposal has already come in for criticism from the Social Democrats (SPD), junior coalition partners in the CDU-led government.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said that “creating lively and good cities and communities, securing employment, promoting culture and investing in social security and education” are just as important as improving the country’s security architecture.



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