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Germany

Germany to Move Federal Police to Aid Terror Fight

To better coordinate Germany’s efforts against terrorism, the federal police will relocate to Berlin. The announcement comes shortly after the foreign intelligence service said it would also move to the capital.

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German Interior Minister Otto Schily wants to centralize security agencies in Berlin.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily will soon have a better eye on those supposed to keep tabs on everybody else.

With the aim of concentrating Germany’s federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies near the government, Schily on Wednesday announced the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), the country’s federal police force, would move from two western locations to Berlin by 2008.

“The concentration of a number of operational units to one location and the grouping of police competence makes sense organizationally and is justified due to the increased challenges from the fight against international terrorism,” Schily said.

Only last autumn, Germany’s main foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), announced it would move to Berlin from the sleepy town of Pullach outside of Munich to be closer to important decision-making in the capital. Although Germany has a long tradition of placing federal agencies throughout the country, many officials like Schily feel a more centralized security apparatus would be better suited to the tackling the threats of a post-Sept. 11 world.

BKA will still have two centers

The BKA presently is based in Wiesbaden near Frankfurt, with a small branch in Meckenheim near Germany’s former capital Bonn. Now, by pushing for the unexpected relocation of the agency, Schily has made clear he wants to improve the government’s crisis management ability by having key law enforcement authorities within his reach as well.

Ulrich Kersten

Ulrich Kersten, President of the German Federal Police (BKA).

The BKA’s Berlin office, currently with a staff of 500, will this year increase by 300. BKA director Ulrich Kersten (photo) and the entire directorate will complete their move by 2006. But around half of the agency’s total 5,000 employees will stay in Wiesbaden, which will remain an important center for information technology, research, administration and education.

Domestic intelligence still in Cologne

The decision to bring the BKA also to Berlin leaves only one other important security agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) in Cologne in western Germany, far away from the federal government. Whereas the BND is involved in foreign intelligence gathering, the BfV is Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, focusing primarily on the activities of left- and right-wing extremists and counter-espionage.

Although Schily is thought to be keen to also bring the BfV to the capital, the head of the agency, Heinz Fromm, for the moment appears set against a move. And Schily may have enough on his plate contending with unhappy BKA officials, who have begun to complain about the relocation plans.

Klaus Jansen, head of a German law enforcement association, told the Associated Press that there was no professional reason to move the BKA to Berlin and that relocating the agency could actually have a negative effect on morale. “What we need is a highly-motivated police force especially in light of the current challenges,” Jansen said.

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