Interior Minister de Maizière Proposes Security, Crisis Management Reforms

Jan 6, 2017

Interior Minister de Maizière Enlarge image Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (© picture alliance / dpa) German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière outlined a number of proposed changes to national security and crisis procedures in an op-ed published on January 3 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Germany must be even better prepared for difficult times, de Maizière writes. Reforms are necessary in order to make Germany, and also Europe, more crisis resistant.

In a time of worldwide migrations, international terrorism, the dissolution of states, global data traffic, and the digitalization of private and public life, Germany has a leadership role, de Maizière states. However, this duty begins with the order at home, in Germany.

The deadly truck attack on the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz in Berlin on December 19 placed a critical focus on security procedures. Consequences will be realized as a result of the attack, Minster de Maizière writes. Even before the attack he had already presented a number of relevant proposals:

  • New cause for pre-deportation custody for dangerous asylum seekers who have been denied asylum,
  • Improved exchange of data for all security agencies in the European Union,
  • Distinction between a tolerated stay out of valid humanitarian reasons versus a limited stay for a denied asylum applicant who is responsible for a lack of documentation,
  • The creation of protection zones for refugees outside of Europe,
  • A common European asylum system,
  • National reinforcement to intensify the repatriation of those people who are obliged to leave Germany.

Beyond these points, de Maizière outlined a number of wider-reaching measures to make Germany a strong state in difficult times. It is time, he writes, to make Germany’s capabilities in handling crises fit for the future. Most of the suggested measures are in the proposal stage and have not yet been considered by the Federal Cabinet or Bundestag.

  • In circumstances where federal authorities and state authorities work together on security matters of national scope, the federal authorities must have a steering capacity over all security agencies, de Maizière writes. The powers of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) have been too narrowly defined. What is needed are uniform rules and better coordination, for example in the monitoring of persons deemed likely to endanger the state. 
  • Federal Police at Munich airport Enlarge image Federal Police at Munich airport (© picture alliance / dpa) Germany needs more effective police manhunt methods. The current restrictions on the Federal Police to only conduct random checks within 30 kilometers of the German border are no longer justified in the 21st century, he writes. The Federal Police should also have, along with the state police, a central responsibility in pursuing and investigating unauthorized stays in Germany. The Federal Police will also need additional personnel to increase its activity in third countries and on the outer border of the Schengen Area, de Maizière writes.
  • The federal level authorities should have more responsibilities for dealing with catastrophes—wide ranging and time critical events that affect more than one federal state or the entire country.  Germany urgently needs a central operational crisis management for effective decision making and coordination, de Maizière writes. Moreover, the Bundeswehr should have a role, for example in protecting property, if the police have reached their limit.
  • illuminated keyboard Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) As criminal attacks on digital structures, important corporations and internet providers increase rapidly, Germany needs to be able to prevent and stop them effectively. Minister de Maizière proposes continuing the development of the National Cyber Response Centre so that it can take over management in complex cases and coordinate the deployment of rapid response teams from other security agencies, including the Bundeswehr if needed.
  • The state has to keep up with technological advances and uses by private citizens but also use these advances for its work, de Maizière said. For one, biometric analysis, like using facial recognition technology in searching for a terrorist on the run, is an important tool. As terrorist organizations use all available communication tools—mobile and land lines, Skype, emails or WhatsApp instant messaging—security agencies have to be able to keep up. To foster the state’s knowledge of these technologies, de Maizière proposes combining the technical abilities for developing IT tools in cyber intelligence under a new central office for IT security. 
  • Minister de Maizière is calling for a national push in the enforcing of deportations. He proposes departure centers, which are already legally allowed, for housing those who are obliged to leave Germany, especially people who are hindering their own deportation. Federal authorities should also have enforcement capability in the ending of residency, which could include federal departure centers.
  • Registration of refugees Enlarge image In the town of Suhl, a refugee has his fingerprints registered at a facility run by the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF). (© picture alliance / arifoto UG/Mi) It will be essential for security in Europe to know exactly who is crossing the Schengen Area borders. The European Union is currently coordinating the introduction of an Entry/Exit System (EES) that would eventually register all transit across the EU’s outer border. The EU would also create a traveler information system—similar to those of the United States, Canada, and Australia—that would require citizens who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area to obtain a travel authorization before entering.
  • In the case of huge numbers of refugees, de Maizière states, the EU needs a mechanism to deal with mass inflows in the future. In order for a third country outside of the EU/Schengen Area to be considered safe, it would have to have humane and secure access conditions. These could be realized with the cooperation of the EU, the third country and the UNHCR.

Proposed Reforms

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin