Germany's anti-terror plan: More police and tighter citizenship laws

Germany’s interior minister unveiled new plans to tighten national security and combat potential future attacks following increased terrorist activity in Europe this summer.

Fabian Bimmer/Reuters
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is seen during his visit at the federal police inspection in Bremen, Germany, Wednesday.

After a series of attacks in France and Germany this summer, Germany’s interior minister revealed new proposals, including tighter security on dual nationals, expedited deportation of foreign nationals deemed dangerous, and increased funding for German police forces.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said he was limiting his proposals to elements that could be implemented quickly and would be considered politically reasonable. Such proposals include an added ability to strip citizenship from dual nationals who leave the country to fight abroad for militant Islamic groups, as well as a streamlined process for deporting foreigners who have committed violent crimes or are otherwise considered dangerous, making “endangering public safety” the means for detainment.

Mr. Maizière also proposed adding thousands of police officers and improved equipment to the German police force, with a goal of further enabling authorities to scour the “darknet” to intercept terror networks and make “promoting terrorism” a criminal offense.

"A lot of people ... are worried about further attacks. That is understandable," Maizière told reporters, reported The New York Times. "No one can guarantee absolute security, but we must do what is possible."

After a summer of highly publicized violence – including the Bastille Day attack in Nice in which a French-Tunisian man drove a truck through a crowded promenade, as well as several more recent attacks in Bavaria, particularly the shooting of nine people by an Iranian-German man on a train in Munich – Germany’s new proposals are seen as a way of allaying public fears.

One of his more controversial proposals would allow – and possibly require – doctors to tip off law enforcement about terrorism-motivated patients before they could carry out an attack. The controversy revolves around the concept of relaxed patient confidentiality laws, which are currently strict and well-established in Germany.

“The tense security situation should not seduce people into hasty political and legal solutions. Doctor-patient confidentiality is a basic right protected by the constitution,” said the head of Germany’s Federal Association of Doctors, Frank Ulrich Montgomery.

Maizière's proposals come after the discovery that several of the perpetrators of recent mass-killings were known to be mentally unstable.

While certain elements of Maizière's proposals drew criticism, he refrained from endorsing other controversial issues, such as banning burqas or abolishing dual citizenship altogether.

Both of those policies were suggested by Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its sister party that operates in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union.

“You can't ban everything you're against,” Maizière said in a press conference. “And I'm against wearing a burqa.”

Given the nature of Maizière's proposals, critics have appeared on both sides, with the center-left Social Democrats strongly opposed to any ban on dual citizenship whatsoever, while Conservative party members plan to outline their own proposals next week which are expected to outline even stricter policies including an increased focus on police hiring and rigorous monitoring of mosque funding and overall power for intelligence agencies.  

Though Germany is the first European nation to promote such legislation, Germans are not alone in reexamining international policing techniques and counterterrorism protocols in the face of perceived threats.

Maizière did specify that, though several of the recent attacks were allegedly carried out by asylum-seekers, Germany will not hesitate to give shelter to people who seek and deserve asylum.

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