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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Post haggle with secret service inspectors

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The appointment of the Parliamentary Control Commission (PKGr) is almost as quiet as the sessions of the secret commission usually take place. The Federal Minister of Health in the Bundestag has just begged the federal states to implement the new Infection Protection Act in the fight against Corona, and the Minister of Justice will speak in a moment. In the middle, at 12:49 p.m., Bundestag Vice President Aydan Özoguz (SPD) calls additional agenda items 1a and 1b. Özoguz briefly explains the procedure, a two-minute vote is held in an accelerated procedure and there is no debate. The traffic light has just won a seat and a significant two-thirds majority here.

The parliamentary control body is made up of some members of the Bundestag and meets in family circles and supervises the work of the intelligence services, i.e. the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution ( BfV) and the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD). The parliamentary control committee receives information, but is obliged to maintain the greatest secrecy. An important task, but it was here of all places that the semaphore had been at loggerheads for months and bickered over posts.

The controversy begins with the size of the body. In the last legislature it was made up of nine deputies, but now it is going to grow. The Union wanted to increase it to eleven people, but the traffic light groups decided on Thursday to increase the body to 13 deputies. The SPD in particular uses this, which will receive four seats instead of two in the body, but the FDP and the Greens will also receive two instead of one seat in future. The Union, although only one percent smaller than the SPD, will remain with three seats, AfD and leftists should get a seat, in theory.

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In fact, however, only eleven of the 13 seats are filled, as becomes clear three hours later when Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP) interrupts the Interior Ministry’s budget debate and announces the election result. Unsurprisingly, AfD candidate Joachim Wundrak clearly failed. He only gets 90 instead of the required 369 upvotes. But the left-wing interior designer, André Hahn, who was a member of the PKGr in the last legislature, is left behind with 341 votes in favor.

For the body’s work, this means above all that the semaphore has a huge two-thirds majority, which it actually does not have in percentage terms in the Bundestag. With Roderich Kiesewetter, Christoph de Vries (both CDU) and Alexander Hoffmann (CSU), there are only three MPs in the PKGr who do not belong to the traffic light. Such a majority can certainly become relevant.

The SPD and the Greens had long argued over the presidency.

For example, experts can only be commissioned for an investigation with a two-thirds majority, and this clear consent is also required if Parliament is to receive a written report on this investigation. If the secret work of the committee is to be made public or if individual employees of parliamentary groups are to participate, a two-thirds majority is also required. An instrument that now only the SPD, the Greens and the FDP have.

But the traffic light is not only complicated when it comes to size. The SPD and the Greens had long fought for the presidency. With Ulrich Grötsch (SPD) and Konstantin von Notz (Greens), both parties had appointed two experienced and well-known national politicians. Although the SPD, as the largest parliamentary group, traditionally has the first right of access, the other parties criticized the fact that an SPD politician should be the supreme controller of the three red houses. Because with the Federal Chancellery (responsible for the BND), the Ministry of the Interior (responsible for the BfV) and the Ministry of Defense (responsible for the MAD), all the secret services are indirectly under the control of the SPD in this legislature.

After long negotiations at the level of the presidents of the parliamentary groups of traffic lights, castling has now been agreed. First Konstantin von Notz will lead the committee for 24 months, then it is Ulrich Grötsch’s turn. Neither the SPD nor the Greens are really satisfied with this. But to finally reappoint the body – two of the old members were no longer elected to the Bundestag – it was finally agreed to change after two years. The previous president, Roderich Kiesewetter, will now become vice president.

Loses the presidency of the PKGr: Roderich Kiesewetter of the CDU.Photo: IMAGO/Jürgen Heinrich

And another personality causes displeasure. With Matthias Bartke, of all people, a close confidant of Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chancellor Wolfgang Schmidt, he will be given the position of Permanent Plenipotentiary. The authorized representative reviews selected facts from the intelligence services on behalf of the watchdog and prepares reports, a central role in the background.

Bartke is a Social Democrat from Hamburg, he has known Scholz for decades, they are said to go by their first names. Bartke has so far had nothing to do with domestic and security politics. He is considered a social politician, but in 2021 he lost his constituency to a green politician. Here the Social Democrats provided themselves with posts, it is said angrily in the background. After all, Bartke is not the first Hamburger at Team Scholz. Even members of the PKGr fear that Bartke will not be able to work independently. In the evening he was to be chosen anyway, but the meeting and the election remained secret, of course, for the time being.

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