State leaders rip into Berlin’s plan to centralize security powers

After the German Interior Minister put forth a bold plan on Tuesday to centralize the country's security apparatus, conservative leaders at the state level have hit back.

State leaders rip into Berlin's plan to centralize security powers
Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer. Photo: DPA.

Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer on Wednesday categorically rejected Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière’s plan to increase federal powers in domestic security.

Germany’s domestic intelligence services are currently decentralized, divided between the federal government and the 16 individual state governments. But de Maizière wants to move the states’ powers to Berlin under the federal BfV intelligence service.

“I can only tell you this: a disintegration of the Bavarian state intelligence service will never come about,” Seehofer said.

When asked what he thought about the Interior Minister’s level of competence, Seehofer said he “does not give out grades”.

Seehofer, who also leads the CSU, sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, has been an outspoken critic of the Chancellor’s policies, and in particular her refugee policies.

Merkel herself backed her Interior Minister and CDU party mate on Wednesday, according to her spokesman.

“We live in a time of new challenges, and the central question is what are the unpleasant answers to these challenges. Less important are the questions of whether organizational changes are nice or not nice,” said Merkel’s spokesman.

“To outright oppose and rule out proposals is not the right way.”

The Interior Minister’s proposal comes on the heels of heated criticism of the country’s security methods in the wake of the Berlin terror attack on a Christmas market last month.

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 had also 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.

Still, de Maizière’s insistence that his plan could help close security gaps has met with opposition, even from within his own party.

Hesse interior minister Peter Beuth, CDU, called the reform plans “nonsense” and said such swift moves could “undermine the confidence of the citizens in the state”.

“It would also call into question the entire federal security architecture,” Beuth said.

NRW interior minister Ralf Jäger, a Social Democrat, warned that centralization would not yield any advantages in combating terrorism.

“To abolish the state intelligence services and create a giant federal authority does not make us better in the fight against terror, but rather more bureaucratic and clumsier,” Jäger said.

“It would be completely wrong to now rip apart the federal system.”