What of Merkel’s security programme?

And it’s four in a row! Not exactly a surprise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel led her alliance of Christian Democrats of the CSU/CDU to victory in yesterday’s German elections with 33% of the vote. Even if the electoral shock of seeing an extreme right-wing party return to the Bundestag must not be ignored, our role here at FOB is not to provide political commentary but to examine Merkel’s security programme.

What future for Angela Merkel’s campaign promises? (Photo credit: Bundesregierung / Kugler)

Prosperity and security for all, these are the key words of the programme defended by the CDU. The manifesto of about 70 pages contains no less than 58 occurrences of the word “Sicherheit” (security). Strongly shaken by the terrorist attacks in 2016, Germany must now strengthen security at the federal and regional levels. Nearly 15,000 police and security guards will be hired to improve surveillance “in streets, squares, trains, stations and airports.

Since it is neither legally nor culturally possible to resort to the Bundeswehr for this type of mission, Berlin has logically opted for an increase in the size of the police force from 38,000 in 2014 to 41,500 in 2017.

After 25 years of cuts, the Bundeswehr is expanding again. It is getting more staff, more modern equipment and sufficient financial means,” Merkel and the CDU explain in their manifesto. In addition to a capital investment plan with a budget of €30bn, the CDU promises an additional 18,000 military personnel by 2024. Emphasis will also be placed on the acquisition of new skills such as cybersecurity. “We are going to invest in highly qualified people and state-of-the-art equipment,” says Merkel, who wants to create a new cybersecurity research centre at the Bundeswehr University in Munich. “The Bundeswehr needs […] to develop offensive cyber capabilities within its spectrum of skills,” the manifesto adds.

More surprising is the financial component of the Merkel programme. After calling the “2% of GDP” defence level required by NATO “completely unrealistic”, Berlin could now pull a U-turn and follow the line actively defended by its current Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. In order to meet this commitment, Germany would have to almost double its current budget to reach €65bn in 2024. This is all the more unattainable since the investments originally planned for the Bundeswehr have been revised downwards for 2018 (as we explained here). Hence Merkel’s vagueness saying she wants to “gradually increase defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2024”, without explicitly promising to reach that level.

Logically attached to a stable political landscape in a world that is not, the Germans have chosen continuity by timidly betting on the ruling alliance, which is now waiting for the Bundestag to re-appoint Merkel as Chancellor in order to launch various projects.

If it is not particularly ambitious, it remains to be seen how Merkel’s programme will resist the presence of the far-right AFD party, the divorce with Martin Schulz, president of the Social-Democratic party and thus, to the establishment of a solid new alliance with yesterday’s opponents. The task will be all the more arduous because the French example has proved to us that, even with an overwhelming majority, no election promise is immune to the whims of power.