10 Nov 05. MARTIN AGÜERA of Defense News reported that Talks on creation of their grand coalition are nearly complete and there is general harmony about broad defense issues between Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), but they still face important decisions, defense experts said — including the size of the 2006 defense budget.
In fact, the complicated negotiations here to form a government coalition have delayed formation of the new government, which will significantly delay federal budget discussions for 2006. The designated defense minister, Franz-Josef Jung, recently told the DeutschlandRadio broadcast channel that he fears additional cuts in the defense budget could harm the military’s transformation process.
Acting Defense Minister Peter Struck recently told the weekly Welt am Sonntag that he would support the new minister against budget cuts. Struck will become the influential chairman of the SPD group in parliament.
Defense observers and industry executives do not expect much movement before mid-2006.
“There are talks about putting two defense programs — the Multifunctional Information Distribution System and the Guided-Missile Launch Rocket System — on the agenda of the budget committee before year’s end,” said a parliamentary source. “But I don’t that the budget committee will go down into programs once they have constituted themselves that late.”
One industry executive here also said that programs such as the upgrade for the Patriot missile system or the Trigat long-range missile system may not be debatable before mid-2006.
“We’d be prepared otherwise and would be happy if it came sooner, but the political realities after the elections, at least, look different,” the executive said.
Also under fire is a proposed law that would allow the military to shoot down hijacked civil aircraft to avoid a scenario like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Interior Minister Otto Schily in late 2004 had made the case for such a law to protect civilians on the ground.
A group of critics had filed a lawsuit against the new law with the High Court in Karlsruhe, arguing that it did not take into account human dignity.
Representatives of associations like the German Fighter Aircrew Association or the German Bundeswehr Association have argued it was not clear how the pilots who would have to shoot down airliners would be treated legally if the action later was proved unnecessary.
The High Court in Karlsruhe on Nov. 9 also expressed concerns about the new law.
A final decision is expected by next year.
But the lawsuit highlights discussions within the prospective government over
the use of Bundeswehr troops for domestic purposes.
The CDU and its sister party, the Christian Socialist Union, have argued for a broader use of Bundeswehr troops for interior missions. They believe the armed forces should be used to safeguard important locations or installations in Germany to increase homeland security.
So far, interior security is — and will remain — the responsibility of the
Ministry of the Interior and the police, an expert argued. The expert said the issue may be resolved soon.
“There are talks to adjust the term ‘catastrophe’ for which Bundeswehr troops could be used in interior missions,” said Heinz Schulte, editor of the Griephan Briefe newsletter, in Berlin. “It may then only come to a use of Bundeswehr troops if the armed forces can provide genuine materiel to help overcome a disaster.”