Federal Constitutional Court: Bundestag may have more say in EU security policy

In the future, the federal government must involve the Bundestag much more in European foreign and security policy than has been the case up to now.

Federal Constitutional Court: Bundestag may have more say in EU security policy

In the future, the federal government must involve the Bundestag much more in European foreign and security policy than has been the case up to now. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the obligation to provide comprehensive and earliest possible information on EU issues also applies to this area.

The Bundestag must be informed about meetings and informal consultations in good time so that it can still influence the line of negotiations and voting behavior of the federal government, said Deputy Court President Doris König.

The foreign policy spokesman for the Greens, Jürgen Trittin, was "extremely satisfied". Just a few days ago, Poland, Lithuania and other EU countries refused to send a paper for a new package of sanctions because of the war in Ukraine. "This practice will be over after this verdict."

Lawsuits from the Greens and the Left

The Karlsruhe proceedings went back to organ complaints by the Greens and Left in the Bundestag, which had already been filed in 2015 against the background of the refugee crisis. Since the 2021 federal election, the Federal Foreign Office has been headed by Green Minister Annalena Baerbock. However, the federal government stuck to its line that separate rules apply to security policy.

Foreign State Secretary Susanne Baumann welcomed the fact that there are now clear guidelines. It has been known for a long time "that this difficult matter needs to be clarified". The decision will now be analyzed very precisely in order to "draw the necessary parliament-friendly conclusions from it for our teaching practice".

In 2015, the then federal government had only made a draft concept for the now expired EU operation "Sophia" against smugglers in the Mediterranean available to parliamentarians after the deployment had already been decided by the Council of EU member states. Even then, the paper could only be viewed by members of certain committees in the secret protection office of the Bundestag.

The second lawsuit also concerned a letter from the then Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), which the left-wing faction had requested in vain.

Court: Obligation to inform as soon as possible

In both cases, the Bundestag was violated in its participation rights, as the court has now determined. Parliament must be brought "to a level of information equal to that of the government" as soon as possible, said König.

According to the verdict, the federal government would have been obliged to inform the Bundestag about the concept "as soon as it came within its sphere of influence". A draft was available by April 30, 2015 at the latest. The inspection was only made possible on May 21st. In doing so, the federal government "prevented the Bundestag from being able to influence the crisis management concept".

Second important point: the Bundestag as a whole must be informed. This is the only way to ensure that "all MPs can access the information equally and without distinction," said König. The judges therefore also complained that only some of the deputies were allowed to see the concept.

According to the judgment, there can also be limits to the obligation to inform, which result, for example, from the welfare of the state. However, the federal government must explain the reasons for this to the Bundestag.

The judges missed such a comprehensible justification in the letter from the Turkish Prime Minister, which, according to a press report, is said to have gone to all EU heads of state and government and dealt with cooperation on migration issues. The left faction was only informed that it was a personal letter to the chancellor. The judges doubt that there was a special protection of confidentiality.

Left-wing politicians: the rights of the Bundestag strengthened

The European policy spokesman for the left-wing faction, Andrej Hunko, said the decision would strengthen the right of the German Bundestag. "This is particularly important given the current political situation."

The plaintiffs had referred to Article 23 of the Basic Law. It states that the Bundestag and Bundesrat are involved in EU affairs. And further: "The federal government has to inform the Bundestag and the Bundesrat comprehensively and at the earliest possible time."

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