Europeanization of German Domestic Security Policy

October 21, 2010

On October 21, 2010, the American-German Institute (AGI) hosted a seminar with DAAD/AGI Fellow Constance Baban on “The Europeanization of German Domestic Security Policy,” which was generously funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

During her presentation, Ms. Baban first spoke about what constitutes “Europeanization” and explained the theoretical background of this term. She pointed out that the term is used in some cases as the equivalent of the term “European integration;” however, many scholars, including Ms. Baban, understand Europeanization as the actual impact of European integration on the nation-state. Europeanization is not a one-way street, however, and in fact also has repercussions on the process of European integration.

Further elaborating on the Europeanization of German domestic security policy, Ms. Baban explained that a first important step in the integration of the EU’s justice and home affairs is the Treaty of Maastricht, later followed by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which first conceived the European Union as an area of freedom, security, and justice. She stressed that the Treaty of Lisbon once again changed the framework for the area of freedom, security, and justice and makes this idea even more important.

Ms. Baban referred to two pieces of legislation to exemplify the actual Europeanization of German domestic security: first, the transformation of the EU data retention directive into German law and second, the conversion into national law of the EU’s framework decision on a European arrest warrant. Both pieces of legislation were initiated by the EU and then codified into national law by the German Bundestag.

These pieces of legislation are, as Ms. Baban explained, not only good examples of the actual Europeanization of this policy field, but they are also good examples of the controversies and challenges that go along with domestic security in a European framework. Both pieces of legislation have caused a public debate about the EU’s influence on Germany’s domestic security policy and with this the EU’s influence on citizens’ fundamental rights, as well as on the role that the German Bundestag and federal government have within these policymaking processes. Eventually, the German Constitutional Court deemed both pieces of legislation unconstitutional. However, Ms. Baban stressed that the court did not deem the EU legislation unconstitutional, but disagreed with the conversion of these two pieces of legislation into German law by federal policymakers. She continued that the constitutional complaint in the case of the transformation of the data retention directive has been the largest constitutional complaint ever in the entire history of the Federal Republic of Germany with about 35,000 complaints.

Ms. Baban argued that the Europeanization of German domestic security policy needs to be viewed in the broader context of the developments in this policy field in general; therefore, she then focused on the developments of German domestic security policy since 9/11, considering the media as well as the political discourse on domestic security policy in Germany.

With regard to the developments in this field, Ms. Baban emphasized that there is an ongoing debate on the one hand about the efficiency of Germany’s domestic security architecture and, on the other hand, about the appropriateness of the domestic security legislation. The 9/11 attacks, the attacks in Madrid in 2004, and the London bombings in 2005, as well as the attempted train bombings in Germany and the arrest of the so-called Sauerland Cell in 2007, all served as catalysts for new policy initiatives. In this context she also referred to several judgments of the Federal Constitutional Court on domestic security-related policies in recent years which exemplify the major role this court plays in regulating domestic security policies.

Ms. Baban emphasized that one of the major cleavages in the field of domestic security policy – in both a European and domestic framework – is the relationship between freedom and security and, accordingly, the question on how to balance fundamental rights and security policies. While this has been a major issue on the national level for a long time, as the idea of the European Union as an area of freedom, security, and justice progresses, striking a balance between fundamental rights and security has become an even more relevant challenge for Germany.