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Germany must overhaul its national security strategy, interior minister says

Germany needs to overhaul not only its territorial defense strategy but also its national security architecture, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.

“Our external and internal security are intimately intertwined. And it takes a strong domestic policy to ensure security in and for our country,” she said in a speech on Tuesday, where she outlined a massive makeover of the country’s national security strategy.

“We have felt too safe for too long. That’s why we must now do everything in our power to make up for the major failures of recent years and decades,” Faeser, who hails from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, said.

The German government has already agreed to adopt a national security strategy in its coalition agreement. Since the beginning of the year, the Ministry of the Interior has been working on the strategy with the Ministry of Defense and the Federal Foreign Office.

At an event organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Faeser previewed the main elements of the new National Security Strategy, which will be in place by early 2023. She highlighted threats posed by cyberattacks as well as disinformation, and the need to protect critical infrastructure.

“For me, the first and foremost priority of the National Security Strategy is the protection and defense of the free democratic society in Germany,” Faeser said. To achieve this goal, she said, her ministry is already shutting down channels spreading misinformation, calling on social media platforms to delete “particularly drastic” false information, and applying debunking to counter the false information with trustworthy sources.

She named three domestic policy principles as particularly important for mastering the current security challenges: protecting democracy and the rule of law, strengthening Germany’s resilience, and spreading security awareness among the population.

Faeser didn’t shy away from putting some blame on the complex German federal government structure. “Challenges we face in the area of safety and security are often rooted in the architecture of our federal system, or they arise from the division of responsibilities between departments. I am convinced that if we want more resilience, we have to address this,” Faeser said.

To help deal with this, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) will be expanded into a central office in the field of cyber and information security, she said. 

“In addition, the federal government urgently needs threat-defending powers that can prevent, stop or at least mitigate cyberattacks,” the minister said. “We will therefore give the federal government the leading role in defending against cyber threats and also anchor this in the basic law.” The interior ministry also wants to introduce a federal crisis coordination team, replacing the principle of ministerial autonomy in threat and crisis situations.

Lastly, the minister advocated for establishing new security awareness among the population. It is essential, she said, to make “binding agreements to actively involve all citizens.” To this end, a Civil Protection Day will be introduced in Germany from 2023.

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