From Separating to Integrating Foreign and Domestic Security Policy in Germany – Toward a Cultural Turn in Security?

Constance Pary Baban

Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security

Dr. Constance P. Baban is a Senior Research Fellow and Project Leader at the Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security (BIGS) in Potsdam, where she heads the project “RiskViz – Providing a Risk Situation Picture of Industrial IT Security in Germany” funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. She is also a Non-Resident Fellow in the Foreign and Domestic Policy Program at AICGS at Johns Hopkins University. Moreover, she holds the position of Vice Chairman of the Young British Chamber of Commerce in Germany / Berlin-Brandenburg Region, a BCCG membership network of young business executives.

Constance has several years of professional experience in academia and research, the public sector as well as in the field of security affairs, technology and digitization. She holds a PhD (“summa cum laude”) and a Master of Arts (“magna cum laude”) in Applied Linguistics, Political Science, and Media & Communication Science from Leibniz Universität Hannover. Her PhD thesis on Germany’s political security discourse from 2001 to 2009 was published by Springer VS in 2013.

The use of military force in the Federal Republic of Germany has been restricted by the constitution since the nation’s founding. Based on the experience of the political abuse of power during the National Socialist Regime, the founding fathers of the postwar German Republic worked out a constitution that diffused state power in many ways. Since then, Germany’s security culture has been characterized by a strict separation of foreign and domestic security policy means. In 2006, the German Federal Constitutional Court reconfirmed this security concept with its ruling on the Aviation Security Act (Luftsicherheitsgesetz). However, Germany’s security discourse had already indicated a change of this concept toward integrating both aspects of security, when in August 2012 the Federal Constitutional Court’s plenum overruled the previous judgment and allowed the domestic use of military force in restricted cases.

Investigating Changes in Germany’s Domestic Security Policy

Since the September 11 attacks (9/11) much research in Germany has focused on the analysis of the impact of 9/11 on Germany’s foreign security policy—for instance, Germany’s disagreement with the United States (U.S.) on the intervention in Iraq in 2003 or Germany’s cooperation with the U.S. on the Afghanistan mission as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Many political debates in Germany have also focused on the questions if and how the threat of transnational terrorism has altered principles of Germany’s domestic security policy. Judging from the number of pieces of legislation passed by the German Bundestag in the fight against terrorism, 9/11 and the threat of transnational terrorism have had a large impact on Germany’s domestic security policy and its security architecture.[1] This analysis seeks to briefly explore the shifts in Germany’s domestic security policy by focusing on the changing security policy concept of separating foreign and domestic security, eventually asking the question whether the changing of this concept toward integrating foreign and domestic security constitutes a cultural turn in security. I will be doing so by using the example of the latest ruling of the German Constitutional Court on armed forces (Bundeswehr) missions in Germany in 2012.


The Security Culture Approach meets Security Discourse Analysis

In trying to identify and explain changes in security policy I refer to a more recent approach in security studies: the concept of security culture.[2] With reference to Christopher Daase, this approach to security views security culture as the sum of social and individual practices that build the foundation for what society perceives as a threat and how it is supposed to deal with it.[3] I argue that this understanding of security fits well with a discourse analytical approach whose major assumption is that people produce and reproduce perceptions of the world through language.[4] Analyzing the security policy discourse is therefore based on the premise that security policy is strongly related to the perception and the definition of threats and risks by the security policy actors. Daase supports this with his notion that those who define the threat are the ones who shape security policy.[5] The political goal of establishing and maintaining security strongly depends on how threats are perceived and interpreted by political leaders as well as on what is thought to be an appropriate, successful, and legitimate policy intervention to deal with security matters. More than in other policy areas the process of security policymaking in general and domestic security policymaking in particular depends on language. This is because security and insecurity are first of all abstract commodities. Threats and risks depend upon how they have been defined by the policymakers, and attempts of security production must be communicated to the citizen. The same applies to conditions of insecurity. As I have shown elsewhere on how to adapt discourse analytical approaches to the analysis of security policy,[6] I argue that Germany’s security culture can be investigated by taking a closer look at the domestic security discourse in Germany. In doing so, relevant security concepts can be pointed out and their change in relevance over time can be traced.


The Changing Concept of Separating Foreign and Domestic Security

One of the most essential concepts of security policy in Germany is the concept of separating foreign and domestic security. This holds even in light of the profound changes that German security policy has undergone since 9/11. The change of this concept can be investigated with a foreign and a domestic focus. This essay is aimed at the latter one. Looking at Germany’s domestic security policy, the main indicator for the transformation of this concept is the attempt for an extended domestic deployment of the federal army in Germany. Another indicator, which is not the focus of this analysis, is the Europeanization of German domestic security.[7] This process of Europeanization has also been triggered by 9/11, by the attacks in Madrid in 2004, and by the London bombings in 2005. The challenge of transnational terrorism has urged the need for stronger cooperation among EU member states, particularly in the field of intelligence gathering, data retention, and data sharing. Moreover, in addition to Germany’s domestic security policy undergoing a process of Europeanization, it also increasingly overlaps with foreign security issues due to new threats. New security challenges such as transnational terrorism have resulted in a growing intersection of foreign and domestic security—in this case, in the debate on Bundeswehr missions in Germany in the fight against terrorism. This debate culminated in the aviation security law of 2005. In both politics and academia, an extended security term (erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff) is used to diagnose and describe the changing relationship between foreign and domestic security.[8] However, the term itself is controversial among politicians and security policy analysts as the debate over this security term is actually a debate about the future direction of German security policy in general. While all German parties perceive transnational terrorism as an actual security matter, political leaders are struggling when asked whether foreign and domestic security can no longer be regarded separately.


The German Security Policy Discourse on Domestic Bundeswehr Missions

Armed forces missions within Germany in the fight against terrorism were already on the political agenda during the parliamentary debates on the first anti-terrorism legislation passed right after 9/11 in 2001. However, at this time only the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) sought a debate about a constitutional change that would allow armed forces missions in the fight against terrorism within Germany. These missions would be in addition to existing deployment possibilities granted by the constitution, such as disaster management—highlighting the fact that due to the threat of terrorism, foreign and domestic security could no longer be viewed separately. All other parties in the German Bundestag opposed the CDU/CSU’s proposal. The debate culminated in the aviation security law of 2005, which was then passed by the governing coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens. The law’s point at issue was that it authorized the minister of defense to give the order to shoot down a hijacked airplane used as a weapon, for instance by terrorists. Though the CDU and CSU generally approved of the idea of the law, put on the agenda under the leadership of former minister of the interior Otto Schily (SPD), they argued that a change in the constitution would be needed. Eventually, the law was passed with only votes from the SPD and Greens. While the CDU and CSU opposed the legislation, citing the need for a change of the constitution beforehand, the FDP and Die Linke both absolutely opposed the law as they saw it conflicting with basic rights and with the principle of separating foreign and domestic security. Yet in 2006 during the grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD, the German Constitutional Court depicted the constitutional borders of new policy interventions using military force in the fight against terrorism in Germany by ruling the shooting of hijacked aircraft unconstitutional. Furthermore, the Court stressed that the domestic deployment of the Bundeswehr with military means was in no case allowed.[9] Yet in 2012, the plenum of the Court partly overruled this judgment and allowed the domestic deployment of the Bundeswehr, including the use of military means in very restricted cases.[10] Despite these restrictions and the fact that the ruling will likely not lead to frequent deployment of the federal army with military means within Germany, the verdict can be judged as historic since with this decision the Court institutionalized the security policy concept of integrating foreign and domestic security.


Outlook: Toward a Cultural Turn in Security?

Most challenges that Western states are facing culminate in the political goal to protect their own people—be it from diseases, economic instability, war, man-made and natural disasters, or the lack of important resources. They are all linked to the state’s central task of guaranteeing its citizens security and freedom. As I have explained above, this task and the security policies resulting from it depend upon how threats and risks are perceived and what is perceived to be an appropriate tool to approach these security issues. While the maintenance of security in and for Germany has been coined by the separation of foreign and domestic security since its founding, the German security policy discourse indicates the normalization of the concept of integrating foreign and domestic security policy. Therefore, I argue, this also indicates a tendency toward a cultural turn in security. As shown above, this can be exemplified by the latest Constitutional Court ruling of August 2012, as it institutionalizes the concept of integrating foreign and domestic security in Germany. However, if foreign and domestic security policy can no longer be regarded as separate, what is the impact of this new understanding of security on security policy and what challenges for policymaking result from it? In addition to this brief analysis focusing on the German security policy discourse on domestic armed forces missions, further research will be needed to investigate whether the integration of foreign and domestic security influences the traditionally separated means of foreign and domestic security production like military force, intelligence gathering, and law enforcement.

Dr. des. Constance Baban, Senior Research Fellow at Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security (BIGS) Potsdam, Germany.

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[1] For an analysis of the effects of 9/11 on Germany’s domestic security architecture see for example: Stefan Hansen, Neue deutsche Sicherheitsarchitektur. Ist eine Reform der Kompetenzverteilung zwischen Polizeibehörden, Nachrichtendiensten und den Streitkräften notwendig? (Frankfurt am Main, Berlin et al.: Peter Lang, 2009).

[2] Christopher Daase, “Sicherheitskultur als interdisziplinäres Forschungsprogramm,” in Sicherheitskultur. Soziale und politische Praktiken der Gefahrenabwehr, ed. Christopher Daase, Philipp Offermann, Valentin Rauer (Frankfurt/New York: Campus, 2012): 23-44.

[3] Ibid., 40.

[4] See for example Maarten A. Hajer, The politics of environmental discourse. Ecological modernization and the policy process (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

[5] Christopher Daase, Sicherheitspolitik und Vergesellschaftung. Ideen zur theoretischen Orientierung der Sicherheitspolitischen Forschung,” in Regionalisierung der Sicherheitspolitik. Tendenzen in den internationalen Beziehungen nach dem Ost-West-Konflikt, ed. Christopher Daase et al. (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1993): 39-64. Here p. 45.

[6] Constance P. Baban, Der innenpolitische Sicherheitsdiskurs in Deutschland. Zur diskursiven Konstruktion sicherheitspolitischen Wandels (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, forthcoming).

[7] For further reading on the Europeanization of domestic security see Gert-Joachim Glaeßner and Astrid Lorenz, ed., Europäisierung der inneren Sicherheit. Eine vergleichende Untersuchung am Beispiel von organisierter Kriminalität und Terrorismus (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2005).

[8] See for example Daase, 2012, p. 24.

[9] See the Federal Constitutional Court’s judgment on the Aviation Security Act, BVerfGE (Bundesverfassungsgericht) 357/05 of 15 February 2006,  <> (28 November 2012).

[10] See the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court’s plenum on the judgment of the Aviation Security Act (2006) in 2012, BVerfGE (Bundesverfassungsgericht), 2 PBvU 1/11 (Plenarentscheidung) of 3 July 2002, <> (28 November 2012).

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.