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The Greens are warning Germany's political parties not to try and compete with one another on matters of internal security.
Before the Greens' Federal Executive Board went into its closed meeting in Berlin, it went for a little excursion in a very special minibus – an autonomous, driverless vehicle. "It goes in just one direction," was party chairwoman Simone Peter's (pictured above with co-chair Cem Özdemir) comment on the short drive – by which she presumably wished to indicate that, in this election year, her party should do the same.
The Greens have appeared anything but united recently, not least on account of the party leader herself. Simone Petersparked a storm of indignation with her critical comments on the Cologne police's stop-and-search action this New Year's Eve. No other prominent Green politicians shared her opinion, and she later admitted that she had been too hasty in judging the situation.
One party, many opinions
Peter has done her party a disservice in two respects. On the one hand, this showed, once again, that voters can find the plurality of opinions among the Greens confusing. The dissonance between representatives of the two wings of the party – the left and the so-called "realos," or pragmatists – means that many are asking themselves what it is the party actually stands for. That can hardly be in the Greens' best interests, given that they'd like to take on governmental responsibility at a federal level again, but are currently scoring a measly nine percent in the opinion polls.
Furthermore, overly hasty reactions like Simone Peter's are being perceived as negative profiling in terms of internal security – an area in which many voters don't feel the Greens have much authority, unlike in the fields of climate or environmental policy. The Green mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer, recently warned that if the public were to get the impression that the Greens were "part of the security problem," the party could lose a lot of votes.
Domestic security is set to become the biggest single issue in Germany's upcoming federal election campaign
'Not a competition to outdo one another'
So what are the Greens' security policy proposals? The key point is the demand for the reinforcement and better equipment of the police. The party has already started to implement this in states where the Greens are part of the regional government. For example: The deputy premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Green politician Sylvia Löhrmann, reports that, under the most populous federal state's SPD-Green coalition government, almost 2,000 police officers are being taken on each year – almost four times as many as under the previous one.
Apart from that, the party is holding back on demanding that security laws be beefed up. "We are not participating in the parties' efforts to outdo one another," Green party chairman Cem Özdemir said, referring to the numerous suggestions for changes in the law that have been under discussion since the Berlin Christmas market attack. "Anyone who makes new suggestions needs to prove that there are gaps in the law as it stands."
Greens have also been emphasizing that there can be no repeat of cases like that of the Berlin attacker Anis Amri, in which the security services made an incorrect assessment of how dangerous he was. However, they do not believe that this is about tougher laws, but about applying them better. They say that the fact this didn't happen is the responsibility of the governing parties, and that there has to be a better exchange of information about potential attackers, both within Germany and across the EU. Cem Özdemir is convinced that, in this instance, an electronic tag would not have helped. He has said that if the government doesn't fully clarify the mistakes in the Amri case, there could be reason to set up a committee of inquiry.
No mass data collection
The Greens are also critical of demands for more CCTV surveillance in major cities: They say this only makes sense in specific high-crime areas and at big events. "We don't want mass surveillance of the population," Özdemir stressed, while Simone Peter commented that: "Surveillance without cause has no basis in the constitution."
With regard to potential attackers from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, the Greens are in favor of making agreements with these countries for them to take back their citizens, and for these agreements to be linked to the provision of aid. However, the party rejects the government's proposal that the Maghreb countries be classified overall as safe countries of origin. A law to this effect has already been passed by the Bundestag, but has not yet been approved by the Bundesrat, the legislative body representing Germany's 16 states, as in 11 of these states the Greens are part of the coalition government. However, not all Greens agree on this, either: Winfried Kretschmann, the influential premier of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, is in favor of the law.