Civil war in Syria, ISIS, Taliban in Afghanistan, Israel-Palestinian conflict, North Korea crisis – in short the world of 2017 seems just as dangerous and unstable as in the years before. Lately even Europe has been hit by the world’s chaos when Putin annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and when rising numbers of people sought asylum during the European refugee crisis one year later. In addition, an increasing number of terrorist attacks stroke major European cities – most recently Barcelona. However, Germany at the very heart of Europe remains one of the safest countries in the world. Apart from the Islamic attack in Berlin at Christmas 2016 and the riots during the G20 summit this summer, no major act of violence hit the news.
So what could possibly threaten this apparently peaceful and safe nation?
According to the German Ministry of Interior, current and prospective threats concern the danger of Islamic terrorism and extremism, the potential increase of offenses from right and left-wing extremists and the combat of cybercrime and organised crime.
Indeed, there have been several Islamic attacks in the last years. Apart from the attack in Berlin which left eleven visitors of the Christmas market at the “Gedächtniskirche” dead, there were a knife attack in July 2017 and some smaller assaults in the years before.
During the refugees crisis in 2015, Germany allowed 890 000 refugees asylum and the police counted more than 5 times as many attacks by right-wing extremists on homes for asylum seekers than in 2014. Also the number of offenses committed by left-wing activists had risen. Most recently, riots took the streets of Hamburg during the 2017 G20 summit in July. Entire neighborhoods became lawless zones and the police seemed unable to prevent the destruction of cars and shops.
While cybercrime has become a more frequent problem for private households and companies, the German parliament also suffered a major attack in 2015. The government believes that it was launched by the Russian military secret service. Journalist of the weekly newspaper “ZEIT” warned in May 2017 that the stolen information could be used to influence federal elections in September this year.
So what measures haven been taken to increase national security?
In addition to a reinforced deployment of police and a higher sensibility on questions of security in public buildings, transportation hubs and large-scale events, Germany increases its cooperation within the EU. Since 2015 European governments, Europol (European police authority), IT-companies and providers of social media work more closely together and exchange information about illegal data. In April 2017 several NATO — and EU — states decided to install a centre to master destabilising acts against European nations. Concerned by an increased activity in cybercrime the German government resolved on a new strategy which adjusts security measures to improve technology use.
Currently a new pilot project concerning automated face detection sparked a lot of controversy in the German public. In the future the new technology could scan every citizen in public places like train stations and alert the security services if an individual matches with their database.
In the past, governmental measures to increase security as well as assessments of high-ranking ministers and governments suggest that the danger for German citizens has increased. However, representative surveys have shown that the vast majority of Germans do not feel personally threatened even though more than half of the population believes that a certain sense of security belongs to the past.
by Schirin H.