Deadly truck at­tack sparks se­cu­rity de­bate in Germany

Rush to se­cure every­thing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BER­LIN: Should Germany’s pop­u­lar Christ­mas mar­kets be ringed with con­crete, pa­trolled by armed sol­diers and screened with surveil­lance cam­eras? Af­ter a truck ploughed through a crowd of hol­i­day rev­el­ers in cen­tral Ber­lin, the coun­try-hav­ing so far been spared large-scale at­tacks-is de­bat­ing the bal­ance be­tween se­cu­rity and an open so­ci­ety. “This at­tack could have been pre­vented if the square had been pro­tected by con­crete bar­ri­ers,” said Joachim Krause, head of the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy at Kiel Univer­sity, about the at­tack that killed 12 peo­ple at a Ber­lin Christ­mas market Mon­day.

As in Is­rael, Germany needs “to sys­tem­at­i­cally se­cure such places,” Krause ar­gued in busi­ness daily Han­dels­blatt. “But in Germany this has been ne­glected, even though the IS (Is­lamic State group) is call­ing for just this kind of at­tack on so­called soft tar­gets”. Some cities did quickly re­act to Mon­day’s car­nage-the Christ­mas mar­kets of Ham­burg, Stuttgart and Dres­den in­stalled con­crete bol­lards fol­low­ing the Ber­lin at­tack.

On the other hand, fed­eral po­lice chief Hol­ger Muench cau­tioned that, no mat­ter what mea­sures are taken, to­tal se­cu­rity doesn’t ex­ist and that “there will al­ways be a risk”. In a sim­i­lar vein, Ber­lin mayor Michael Mueller ar­gued that “if we se­cure every­thing, if we carry out checks at all the en­trances to all pub­lic spa­ces, then that will be at odds with our cul­ture of open­ness”.

None­the­less the de­bate is, once more, heat­ing up. The CSU, the Bavar­ian wing of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive party, re-launched a cam­paign it ini­ti­ated months ago, af­ter less se­vere at­tacks claimed by the IS in Germany-to au­tho­rize army troops for do­mes­tic se­cu­rity du­ties. The Bun­deswehr should be able to use its train­ing and equip­ment to sup­port po­lice and con­trib­ute to pub­lic safety, ar­gued CSU law­maker Flo­rian Hahn, in com­ments to me­dia group RND. While the sight of armed sol­diers on the streets has be­come com­mon in Euro­pean coun­tries that have suf­fered ji­hadist at­tacks, such as France and Bel­gium, it re­mains taboo in Germany, which in the post-Nazi era set strict con­sti­tu­tional lim­its on its armed forces.

While men and women in uni­form are al­lowed to, for ex­am­ple, fill sand­bags dur­ing flood dis­as­ters, most Ger­mans would ob­ject to the sight of armed troops guard­ing air­ports and rail­way sta­tions. The gov­ern­ment re­cently moved to al­low a first joint po­lice-army ex­er­cise. But the coun­try is a long way from au­tho­riz­ing army pa­trols on the streets, with lit­tle will among pol­icy-mak­ers to push the point.

And, un­like in France, which has suf­fered sev­eral far dead­lier ji­hadist at­tacks, no-one in Germany is cur­rently propos­ing a state of emer­gency. A mem­ber of Merkel’s party, Klaus

Army pa­trols?

Bouil­lon, the in­te­rior min­is­ter of Saar­land state, sparked con­tro­versy by speak­ing of a “state of war” af­ter the Ber­lin at­tack-only to quickly back­track from what many crit­i­cized as a ver­bal es­ca­la­tion.

First ‘real’ at­tack

“The Ger­mans have al­ways given the im­pres­sion that they be­lieve these at­tacks only hap­pen to oth­ers,” wrote Bar­bara Kunz of the Com­mit­tee for the Study of Franco-Ger­man Re­la­tions in an on­line col­umn for Le Monde.

The coun­try “has cer­tainly ex­pe­ri­enced at­tacks in the past” but still “the risk seemed un­real”, she ar­gued.

There­fore the Ber­lin truck at­tack-for which the IS claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity-meant “for many Ger­mans that the coun­try has ex­pe­ri­enced its first ‘real’ Is­lamist at­tack”.

Po­lice union deputy chief Ernst Wal­ter mean­while called for more video surveil­lance and urged an end to “de­mo­niz­ing” the tech­nol­ogy, in a coun­try that af­ter the Nazi and com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ships-re­mains sus­pi­cious of all kinds of surveil­lance. “If politi­cians keep hid­ing be­hind pri­vacy pro­tec­tion and the no­tion of in­di­vid­ual lib­erty, which com­pli­cates our po­lice work, then we will con­tinue to have prob­lems in­ves­ti­gat­ing such at­tacks in fu­ture,” Wal­ter said on pub­lic broad­caster ARD.

BER­LIN: An Iraqi refugee lays a flower at a makeshift memo­rial near the Kaiser-Wil­helm-Gedaecht­niskirche (Kaiser Wil­helm Memo­rial Church) yes­ter­day.

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