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Germany

Regulating Foreign Deployments

The German government faces a bureaucratic and often time-consuming procedure if it wants to send troops abroad. But Berlin hopes that a new deployment law will change this.

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Getting this German soldier to the right place is no easy task for the Berlin government.

In some countries, the head of government can simply order to send troops on a mission overseas. But not in Germany. Before any Bundeswehr soldiers can be deployed abroad, Germany's lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, has to approve the mission. This also applies if it is solely for peacekeeping purposes.

This procedure, born of the mistakes of World War II, ensures that no rash military actions are made by a selected few. But, on the other hand, it can take weeks for such a decision to be reached. It can also lead to domestic tensions. Berlin faces the same problem even in cases where an existing foreign mission is just supposed to be extended.

Members of all parties are unhappy with this situation. That is why the government is working on a so-called deployment law. This legislation aims to precisely regulate the rights of the government and parliament in the case of sending soldiers abroad.

A problematic procedure

Germany's time-consuming procedure on foreign deployments could blemish the country's international reputation. NATO, for example, is currently setting up a response force to react quickly to crisis situations around the world. The Bundeswehr also wants to be part of this.

"But how is this supposed to work in practice?" says Christian Schmidt, defense expert for the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). "If they then always have to say, we don't know whether the soldiers can really be deployed at that time because a lengthy procedure in the German Bundestag and from the government has to take place first, then it's problematic."

A deployment law could solve this problem, as it would allow the government to make a preliminary decision. Parliament could then be questioned retroactively.

Legal basis stands

The legal basis for Germany's deployment procedures is a 1994 ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. At that time, the judges stated that the government had to seek parliamentary approval before it sent troops abroad.

But they also said that the government had to make a law that would precisely regulate this parliamentary role.

Almost a decade has passed since, and it is only now that the government has seen the necessity for such legislation. "In my opinion, we need a sensibly-made deployment law," Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said recently.

Promoting the information flow

Some members of parliament also see it as a disadvantage that though they vote on foreign deployments, they are not then informed what happens during the mission.

This was the case, for example, with the German special troops sent to Afghanistan. The opposition Christian Democrats complained about the "secretiveness" of the government about this deployment. Their foreign policy spokesman Wolfgang Schäuble said he urged the government to "strongly review" its information policy vis-à-vis the Bundestag.

A deployment law could therefore also regulate the government's duty to supply information to parliament and in turn clarify the Bundestag's subsequent control possibilities.

But since the new legislation is not yet there, the liberal Free Democratic party has taken legal action at the Constitutional Court over the information problem. Hoping to make the issue moot, Chancellor Schröder's Social Democrats and his Green coalition partners want to present a draft deployment bill to parliament later this year. It is expected to be approved by a broad majority.

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