Despite Germany's defense minister saying that troops won't be deployed at the World Cup, reports say Bundeswehr personnel will be used while conservative politicians adapt plans that could put the army on the streets.
Germany welcomes the world: Soccer fans may still face German soldiers at the World Cup
After raging for months, the debate over whether the German armed forces will be used to boost security at this summer's World Cup soccer championships appeared to be closed by German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung on Friday.
Jung, who was attending the NATO meeting in the Sicilian town of Taormina this week, told reporters that all security measures other than the army will be used for the tournament which will run from June 9 to July 9.
"I've said clearly that we will act along the lines of our constitution," he said.
Jung's comments came a day after a newspaper article quoted an official defense ministry report as saying that at least 2,000 German soldiers including specialist biological warfare units would be mobilized for the World Cup finals
The Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed that the soldiers, who are trained in dealing with nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, would be stationed in each of the 12 cities where the matches will take place while two transport helicopters used to carry injured or wounded people will be based in Laupheim in southern Germany and in Bückeburg in the northwest.
It also stated that the army would erect an emergency surgical hospital in the western city of Kaiserslautern and build a control tower for special flights at Stuttgart airport in the south.
The measures would cost around five million euros ($6 million), of which 1.4 million euros would be covered by the German government and the federal states. Several opposition politicians and member of the Social Democrats have suggested that FIFA, world soccer's governing body, should foot the bill.
Domestic defense deployment unconstitutional
The Germany army has served on home soil but not in a security role
In theory, the measures would not constitute a domestic deployment of the German army which is banned by the country's constitution, drawn up in 1945 after the fall of the Third Reich.
Hitler's use of the Wehrmacht before and during World War II effectively turned Nazi Germany into a police state. To use the army in a domestic defense capability would need a change to the constitution, something most German politicians are very wary of considering the lessons of the mid-20th Century.
Supporters of the plan to deploy the modern day Bundeswehr as security at the World Cup say that this is all ancient history and that what applied to Germany 60 years ago is irrelevant as the country, as host of the world's largest single sports event, faces other challenges, including terrorism and hooligans.
Despite Jung's assertion that the Bundeswehr will not be used, campaigners for the use of the German army at the World Cup showed they had not been defeated in a parliamentary session on Friday.
Schäuble's plan takes a different tack to avoid all-out rejection
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has another trick up his sleeve
Conservative Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's proposal to change the constitution to allow the Bundeswehr to be deployed on home soil was once again given an airing in the Bundestag and was once again, for the time being at least, suspended.
A constitutional change would require a two-thirds majority vote in favor; a decision which at the present time seems unlikely. But Schäuble's spokesperson Stefan Kaller told parliament that German soldiers could be used in a domestic security capacity if individual soldiers were deputized as police officers, allowing them to be used in the protection of buildings and other sensitive sites.
The Christian Democratic Union's Wolfgang Bosbach announced shortly after that the application for the use of the deployment of the Bundeswehr would be debated and decided upon "quickly" given the new alternatives to a constitutional change.
Opinions divided on Bundeswehr World Cup mission
While some oppose the deployment, others believe it would help the overstretched police force
The ideas of deploying and/or deputizing soldiers were again met with opposition. Social Democrat Dieter Wiefelspütz from the interior ministry told the Bundestag that the constitution would not be changed while Schleswig-Holstein's Minister of the Interior Ralf Stegner warned about the "militarization of internal security."
The debate continues to rage as Germany's policing capacities bend under the strain of dealing with multiple threats and challenges even before the tournament begins.
For months, the organizers of the World Cup have been working on comprehensive security plans to protect spectators, players and VIPs from around the world.
Under these plans, Germany's police force will be stretched very thin, a situation which has added extra weight to the argument for a domestic deployment of the army.
Public opinion in Germany is pretty much evenly divided over the issue with some arguing that the army could easily be used to guard key buildings and would not have to be deployed in high profile areas, like stadiums or entertainment districts.
Others point out that the army is not trained for public security operations and lacks the necessary sensitivity in dealing with such encounters. Both may be right, but as Günther Beckstein, Bavaria's interior minister, argued, using the armed forces would take some of the pressure off the police.
"All measures by the army to assume duties, like the protection of property, would free up hundreds of police for actual police work," the Christian Social Union politician said.
NATO ready to help, Germany unwilling to pay
AWACS planes will be available to Germany, and FIFA will be expected to pay
Armed forces, not specifically the German army, have already been penciled in for security duties at the World Cup with NATO officials declaring recently that the alliance fully expects to be called upon by the German government to provide AWACS surveillance planes at the World Cup, a request that NATO would oblige.
This in turn has created further friction as the German government has made it clear that it would not expect to pay for the added security at the World Cup and that it would pass the bill to FIFA. Soccer officials are less than happy about the prospect of having to stump up the cash to hire NATO planes and possibly pay for further measures.