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German national security ‘tense’, says country’s interior minister

Riot police officer stands guard on the street at the Euro 2024 football tournament in Gelsenkirchen, 16 June 2024
Riot police officer stands guard on the street at the Euro 2024 football tournament in Gelsenkirchen, 16 June 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
Copyright AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
By Angela Skujins with AP
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Nancy Faeser said the country was battling internal and external threats — including espionage attempts from a trio of countries — with the department thwarting bomb attempts in the last year.

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Germany’s democracy is strong, but its security remains tense, according to the country’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.

Faeser made the comments on Tuesday in Berlin while her department, responsible for internal security and protection of constitutional order, handed down its 2023 annual report.

At the press conference, Faeser said that Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to “call the European peace order into question” and that the war in Gaza is “unfortunately having an impact” on Germany.

“We have massively ramped up all protective measures to arm ourselves against the current threats posed by extremism, terrorism and hybrid threats,” she said.

Russia, China and Iran have been using their intelligence and espionage services to spy on Germany, Faeser said, with the Federal Public Prosecutor General arresting individuals responsible for planned sabotage operations in the country on behalf of Russia.

German Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser arrives at the opening of the International Police Cooperation Center (IPCC) in Neuss, 10 June 2024
German Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser arrives at the opening of the International Police Cooperation Center (IPCC) in Neuss, 10 June 2024AP Photo/Martin Meissner

“Our security authorities have acted very consistently here and prevented possible explosive attacks in Germany. We will continue to do everything we can to thwart such plans,” she said.

Thomas Haldenwang, head of the domestic intelligence agency, told the press conference that there is not much “positive news” regarding the 2023 security situation and that various negative trends continued from the previous year.

Extremist crimes on the rise

Headline trends from the 2022 Report on the Protection of the Constitution include right-wing crimes increasing by almost 4% in the reporting period, with extremist crimes attributed to the Reichsbürger and Selbstverwalter extremist groups rising by 34% over the same period.

The number of potentially violent right-wing extremists rose to 14,500 last year from 14,000 in 2022, according to the German domestic intelligence agency's 2023 report.

The overall number of far-right offences rose by more than 22% to 25,660, with more than half of those involving propaganda, the agency said. Violent far-right offences were up 13%, climbing to 1,148, with the vast majority — 1,016 — involving bodily harm.

“The networking activities of the so-called New Right have continued to increase,” Haldenwang said, adding that the importance of these actors to the internal structure of the right-wing extremist scene is growing.

However, the dangers posed by “violent left-wing extremists” also remained high, the president of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution reiterated.

This is demonstrated by “well-planned brutal attacks on political opponents, considerable violence against the police and serious arson attacks on businesses and critical infrastructure," Haldenwang said.

Far-right group faces first day in court

The report was handed down the same day eight German defendants in Munich faced their first day in court over allegations they intended to overthrow the state in plans hatched in 2022.  

The individuals — part of a larger pool of 26 defendants — are accused of planning a violent overthrow of the national government and have been charged with membership of a terrorist organisation.  

A man charged with membership of a terrorist organisation and the preparation of a so-called high treasonous enterprise in Munich, Germany, Tuesday June 18, 2024.
A man charged with membership of a terrorist organisation and the preparation of a so-called high treasonous enterprise in Munich, Germany, Tuesday June 18, 2024.AP

The group planned to storm into the parliament building in Berlin and arrest lawmakers, according to prosecutors. It allegedly intended to negotiate a post-coup order primarily with Russia as one of the allied victors of World War II.

The group rallied around Prince Reuss, a German businessman and a far-right proponent of monarchy. At the Munich state court, 55 trial sessions have been set so far through to the end of January.

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