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Germany

German Minister Resists Merkel Plan for New Foreign Policy Body

Germany's foreign minister is strongly opposed to plans by Chancellor Merkel's party to set up a US-style National Security Council to oversee foreign policy, arguing the body would amount to a step back to the past.

A German soldier in Afghanistan

Critics say a US-style NSC would dramatically alter the role of the German army

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) said in a speech in Berlin on Monday, May 5, that the US National Security Council, which was run by Condoleezza Rice when the US invaded Iraq, had proved a failure in the run-up to the war and could not serve as a model for Germany.

German foreign minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier

Steinmeier says the US NSC had failed in the run-up to the Iraq war

"This would not a be a path to the future, but rather a path back to the past," Steinmeier said, adding that the NSC had "surpressed all counterarguments" to the Iraq war in 2003.

The US NSC was created in 1947 to advise and assist the president on national security and foreign policy issues.

"This cannot be the model for us," Steinmeier, who under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder strongly opposed the Iraq war, said.

Evolving threats

Leading members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have proposed setting up a German version of the US NSC.

In a joint draft strategy paper, they argue that the new council would serve as a "political analysis, coordination and decision-making center" in the face of evolving threats.

The paper calls for a concentration of all forces to secure both internal and external security in a national security council under the chairmanship of the German chancellor. The proposal includes deploying the Bundeswehr or German army within German borders.

terrorism

Merkel's party says global terrorism poses unforeseen threats

"The threat of global terrorism makes it important that we get past the traditional division of domestic and foreign security," Volker Kauder, the conservatives' parliamentary leader, told the Welt am Sonntag paper over the weekend. "Ensuring the supply of energy and raw materials is another important security policy point."

On Monday, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a news conference that Chancellor Merkel supported the creation of the NSC.

Social Democrats cry foul

However, senior Social Democrats who share power in an uneasy grand coalition government with the CDU have criticized the plan, arguing it's a thinly-veiled attempt at wresting policy away from the foreign ministry led by Steinmeier.

Peter Struck, head of the SPD group in parliament, said the NSC was totally superfluous.

"These plans have to be taken off the table," SPD foreign policy expert Gert Weisskirchen told the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag. He added that there "absolutely no need" to relocate foreign policy decisions from the foreign ministry to the chancellery, as the plan reportedly calls for.

Opposition remains sceptical

The proposal has also been slammed by opposition parties.

The head of the free-market liberal FDP, Guido Westerwelle, told the Schleswig-Holstein am Sonntag newspaper he thought the CDU/CSU plan could "massively shift -- and damage -- our foreign policy." He said he also feared the proposal could be used as an initial step in allowing the domestic deployment of the Germany army, a plan which the FDP has long rejected.

Claudia Roth, head of the Greens said the NSC proposal redefined the duties of the German army in a "dramatic fashion."

"The conservatives want to send German soldiers to wars for oil and water. That can't be the answer to global crises and global warming," Roth told German news agency dpa.

German media has reported the conservatives planned to present their report to party members on Tuesday and the entire Bundestag on Wednesday.

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