Editors Notes: Is this an indicator that Germany is preparing for the collapse of the Eurozone?
German soldiers will be able to be deployed on the country’s streets for the first time since World War II, after a landmark court ruling.
The country’s Constitutional Court ruled 15 to 1 that armed soldiers can be deployed onto streets, but only in exceptional cases.
The ruling says they can be deployed if Germany faces an assault of “catastrophic proportions”, but not to control demonstrations.
The decision overturns severe restrictions put in place following the Nazi era, requiring soldiers to be confined to training and parade grounds in Germany.
Combat weapons can only be used “as a last resort”, the court ruling says, and must be approved by the federal government, not simply delegated to the defence minister.
Shooting down a hijacked passenger plane with civilians on board remains illegal after the ruling but fighter jets could attempt to force an aircraft to land with warning shots.
In a dissenting opinion, judge Reinhard Gaier says the court has gone too far and that the government should seek an amendment to the constitution if it aims to deploy the military on German soil.
The decision brings Germany broadly in line with European allies including Italy, France and Britain.
The ruling marked a reversal of a decision by the same court in 2006 and was a response to complaints from two of Germany’s 16 federal states.
The German government had attempted to allow more flexibility in its response to a possible terror attack in the wake of the September 11, 2001 suicide hijackings in the United States.
But it ran into resistance from the court, which cited strict restrictions on the deployment of the military in Germany set down in the constitution.
Fears also ran deep that the armed forces could be used as an instrument of political power.
Defence minister Thomas de Maiziere and interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich have welcomed the decision in a joint statement.
“Ensuring the security of our citizens, particularly in extreme cases, is one of the most important duties of our state,” they said.
The ruling “fills a legal void”, added defence affairs expert Ernst-Reinhard Beck of the ruling conservative Christian Union parties’ parliamentary group.
However, justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberg stressed the importance of the “separation between internal and external security” and noted that “not everything that is constitutionally possible is politically right”.
The opposition Social Democrats welcomed the “last resort” restrictions imposed by the court, home affairs expert Michael Hartmann said.
Image Credit: TL