Germany may be leading the world in the rejection of drone policing, as a draft of a new coalition agreement revealed the government will likely cease purchasing new drones for the next four years. The news is somewhat surprising in a European Union beset by US intervention.
Following her September 22 victory, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is forming a new government coalition to guide the country through the next four years—and a draft of the coalition agreement between the country’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and Social Democrats is putting the brakes on finances for drones:
"We categorically reject illegal killings by drones. Germany will support the use of unmanned weapons systems for the purposes of international disarmament and arms control… Before acquiring a qualitatively new arms system, we will thoroughly investigate all associated civil and constitutional guidelines and ethical questions."
Germany had previously been in talks with American and Israeli arms manufacturers to buy sixteen Predator and Heron drones within the coming years.
Both Germany’s Social Democrats and the Bavarian Christian Socialist Union have supported delaying the purchase of the drones. Their next move is to come up with alternatives to a proposal from the CDU that would allow the Bundeswehr (German military) to deploy without parliamentary approval if their military actions fit within the EU’s legal framework.
When it comes to drones, however, Germany isn’t exactly a totally innocent party. According to information released by Pakistani intelligence, Merkel’s government worked with the United States to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan by releasing intelligence data on drone targets—including the targets’ mobile phone numbers. The German branch of Amnesty International has described the attacks (many of which hit children and seniors) as “war crimes,” and called the drone strike program “a license to kill, which completely ignores human rights standards and international law.”
And Germany’s delay of drone purchases may have as much to do with the financial bottom line as any ethical one. A single Predator drone cost $4.03 million as of 2010; Israeli Herons run around $10 million. Earlier this year, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, cancelled the Euro Hawk surveillance drone program after it failed the requirements for certification to fly in German airspace, and the terminated program cost the government more than 500 million euros (around $650 million).
It’s been a strained time for German-US relations. Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the world that “spying on friends is not on at all” after it was revealed that the NSA had tapped her mobile phone and conducted massive spying operations in France and Spain. The relations between the two countries have been so damaged that even John McCain has called for NSA chief General Alexander’s resignation.
Sea changes are occurring in European and American relations, post-Snowden—and it remains to be seen what new international order will emerge from the fray. But for now, it seems that American-style NSA/drone totalitarianism is anything but certain.