German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen would have more authority to take action against a hijacked place in German airspace under new legislation being debated. (Agence France-Presse)
BONN — German agencies are reviewing a proposal to give the defense minister authority to take military action against an airplane captured by terrorists in German air space.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior confirmed on Tuesday that draft legislation to change a section of the Grundgesetz, the country’s basic law, is being reviewed by different departments. It is intended to close a defense gap created by decisions of the German federal constitutional court in 2006, 2012 and 2013.
The judges had ruled that use of the German military at home, even in cases of catastrophic events like terrorist attacks, had to be decided by the government as a group. To give the defense minister equal competences would not conform to the Grundgesetz.
A Cabinet decision on the use of the military in such circumstances could not always be guaranteed in a timely fashion, said a spokeswoman of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
“This applies especially in so-called renegade situations, [when there is] suspicion that a civil aircraft is supposed to be used as a weapon and crashed out of terrorist or other motives. It is therefore necessary to include a ministerial express decision competence in the Grundgesetz for supraregional catastrophe states of emergency in favor of the Defence Federal Ministry.”
The trigger for the court decisions had been the country’s air security law, which was passed in 2005, primarily to prevent terrorist attacks like 9/11 in the US.
In their rulings, the judges first said the constitution would prohibit the use of the military in the interior and therefore the shooting down of a plane. This decision was later revised. However, the judges then decided that a plane with uninvolved passengers could not be shot down, and that under current constitutional law the government as a whole would have to decide on the use of the military within the country, even in emergency situations. ■