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Germans Need to be Alert

Iveta Ondruskova (kh)November 13, 2006

In her weekly video podcast, the German Chancellor has urged Germans to help police combat terrorism. But she warned that measures such as video surveillance weren't enough.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants German citizens, not just the police, to be alertImage: dpa

"We need police, but we need citizens with civil courage just as much," Merkel said at the weekend. "Let us do everything we can to make our country more secure."

She said citizen help was needed not only in the fight against terrorism, but also to combat all types of extremism and general criminality.

Überwachungskameras auf dem Bahnhof
Video surveillance cameras have proliferated since the German failed train bombing in JulyImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Merkel said video surveillance of public places helped counter crimes such as youth violence and right-wing extremist crimes, but warned that the "new threat of terrorism" called for "completely new measures."

In her podcast, Merkel praised the recent agreement by the federal and state governments to set up a national anti-terror databank.

She said the government will spend an extra 120 million euros ($155 million) in the next three years to help prevent bomb attacks on its soil, and use some revenue from a highway toll to fund the pursuit of terrorists.

Merkel wants greater EU cooperation to fight terrorism

In a message to German police officers issued by her office, Merkel also emphasized the necessity for security cooperation. She said when Germany takes over the EU Presidency next year, it will push to strengthen the European Union law enforcement organization, Europol.

"The issue of security will be very high on the (presidency) agenda because we know that no nation can guarantee the security of citizens on its own any longer."

Germany takes over the rotating presidency from Finland for six months on January 1, 2007.

Federal prosecutor warns of terrorist danger

The chancellor's comments were echoed by the country's top prosecutor Monika Harms, who told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that society was at the moment "perhaps not alert enough" to the possibility of terrorist attacks. Harms said the failed terrorist attack on two German trains in July was evidence of the risk to the country.

Bundesrichterin Monika Harms
German Federal Prosecutor Monika HarmsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

She said Germans want to feel secure, but are "often not prepared to accept the limitations," such as increased video surveillance on train stations.

Harms also indirectly criticized a recent decision by Germany's highest court regarding criminal searches and home surveillance.

"As a matter of principle, I think we shouldn't allow the removal of important measures that will bring us up on a level playing ground with the terrorists," she said.

Police nervous

The chairman of the German police union, Konrad Freiberg, also believes Germany is in danger from terrorist attacks. Freiberg told the Hamburger Abendblatt Sonntags that police were becoming "increasingly nervous."

"As our investigations become more intensive, it is becoming increasingly clear that Islamists who are prepared to carry out attacks live in Germany," he warned. "But (the police) are not in a position to monitor these people around the clock."