From now on, only a few deputies are allowed to know what weapons Ukraine is getting

The federal government has indicated to the members of the Bundestag that the information rights of parliamentarians will be restricted in the event of arms exports to Ukraine. State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Economics, Sven Giegold of the Green Party, informed MPs in a letter to left-wing MP Sevim Dagdelin that information and file searches in the Secret Protection Agency are only for members of the State Department, be the defense or economic committees.

In addition, according to Giegold, only budget spokespersons or Individual Plan rapporteurs 14 of the Budget Committee and the Military Commissioner of the German Bundestag have access to the documents.

‘Case-specific’ actions instead of normal information

Dagdelin had asked “why, with regard to licenses for arms exports destined for Ukraine, the German Bundestag was not informed of final approval decisions that were preceded by a referral to the Federal Security Council.”

In the letter available to the Berliner Zeitung, Giegold wrote verbatim: “In order to take into account parliamentary information rights and special security requirements in these specific cases, case-specific procedures have been developed for obtaining parliamentary information on state taxation and the export of weapons of trade war.”

Dagdelin: Germany is already behaving like a de facto war party

Dagdelin, who is also the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, cannot understand this approach. “It is deeply concerning that the federal government is not fulfilling its obligation to inform parliament if arms sales to Ukraine are approved, and it is already operating as a de facto war party,” she told this newspaper. Dangerous decisions such as the delivery of heavy weapons in a war zone “as a state secret are not only fatal in terms of peace policy, but also harm democracy as a whole.”

According to Dagdelin, the federal government is meant to “leave the public in the dark about how much the federal government is really involved in this war.” Dagdelen believes the federal government is violating the “rights of status of deputies, including the principle of public oversight” with the chosen approach.

Disclosure could ‘endanger Germany’s security’

In response to a similar small inquiry from Dagdelen, the Federal Ministry of Economics stated that “according to the current state of knowledge of the Federal Government, disclosure of such information may endanger the security of the Federal Republic of Germany or cause serious damage to its interests”.

Likewise, “such disclosure may jeopardize the preparation and execution of individual transfers of weapons of war and high-value goods as well as the companies involved.” The restriction on a limited group of MPs is due to “special de facto proximity”. The regulation is based on “the current assessment of state welfare and security considerations”.

When asked, Giegold did not give a reason

In doing so, the federal government “creates a balance with the chosen practice between the parliamentary right to information and the state’s duty to protect, with appropriate regard to security requirements.” The baseline assessment is “subject to ongoing review by the Federal Government, such that information exercise is subject to modification in light of new findings.”

The question from Berliner Zeitung about why the federal government chose this restrictive measure remained unanswered by Secretary of State Giegold by the time the issue was published.

The current issue concerns the final approvals of the Federal Security Council (BSR). Parliamentary participation in the federal government’s arms export decisions is not particularly well regulated under constitutional law.

Duties of the Federal Government

Arms exports are not exempt from any parliamentary oversight from the outset. This applies in particular to parliamentary questions and the right to information. The information rights of the Bundestag in the field of arms export law derive directly from Article 38 para.

The Federal Government’s corresponding information obligations are also set out in Article 8 of the new Rules of Procedure of the Federal Security Council. According to this, the federal government generally provides information in writing. The information includes the type and number of approved goods, the recipient country, the German companies involved and the total volume of business (Federal Security Council Rules of Procedure of August 12, 2015, Section 8).

The federal government does not want to fulfill its obligations

The federal government had already anticipated most of the amendments in the spring of 2014, when it pledged to inform the Bundestag of final decisions of the Federal Security Council within two weeks (Bundestag print 19/26098, question 2). This information was also made public to members of the Economic Committee and other committees by December 16, 2021.

With regard to Ukraine, however, the federal government does not want to fulfill its obligation to provide information on final approval decisions. Because with regard to “commercial” exports – that is, purchases by the Ukrainian government from companies located in Germany – the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK) intends to publish an overview of final approval decisions for SECRET classified exports after the delivery of weapons of war and high-value goods that Ukraine bought it from companies based in Germany.

Fears of the left party

Accordingly, with respect to Ukraine, no publicly available information about final approval decisions will be made available, but will only be classified as VS SECRET. This classification is limited to endorsement of information by MPs, as it may not be published to MPs who do not need to know confidential information classified in this way in connection with their parliamentary work.

The Left party fears that the two-week deadline may now be veered, and that information as an overview should only be given after the handover, the date on which the federal government has no influence.

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