Cablegate: Federal Constitutional Court Declares Immigration

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: On December 18, the Federal Constitutional
Court in Karlsruhe declared unconstitutional the
government's immigration law, which had been passed by the
Bundesrat in March 2002 under controversial circumstances.
With this decision, the Court accepted the challenge to the
law by six opposition (CDU or CSU)-led states. The
Karlsruhe decision is seen by many contacts as yet another
blow for the Schroeder Government and as welcome news for
Hesse Minister-President Roland Koch (CDU) in the final
weeks of the Hesse state election campaign. End Summary.

2. (U) On March 22, 2002 the Bundesrat passed the
immigration law over the objections of the CDU/CSU
opposition (Reftel). Bundesrat President Klaus Wowereit
(SPD) decided that the law had the required number of votes
by counting the split vote of the state of Brandenburg as
valid. (Brandenburg is governed by a grand coalition of SPD
and CDU.) While Minister President Manfred (SPD) voted with
yes, his coalition partner, Interior Minister Joerg
Schoenbohm (CDU), voted against it. The six CDU and CSU
governed states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse,
Thuringa, Saxony and Saarland filed a lawsuit with the
Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, arguing that the
Bundesrat procedure violated the German Constitution.

3. (U) The eight judges of the Second Senate on December 18
confirmed that the immigration law cannot go into effect on
January 1, 2003. They held that, since the state of
Brandenburg did not vote unanimously, the vote was invalid.
The judges reconfirmed the constitutional requirement that a
state has to give a unanimous vote in the Bundesrat. They
also stated that after the split vote had been given,
Bundesrat President Wowereit did not follow correct
procedures. Vice President Winfried Hassemer, who announced
the verdict, stated that the decision was reached with a six-
to-two majority. Judges Osterloh and Luebbe-Wolf (both SPD)
gave dissenting opinions.

4. (SBU) The B-W CDU expressed satisfaction with the
Karlsruhe decision. Christoph Dahl, spokesperson of CDU
caucus at the Stuttgart State Parliament, told us that the
immigration law verdict is a heavy blow for the national
government in Berlin. In the upcoming negotiations with SPD
and Greens, the CDU will try to modify the new immigration
law to better suit its political objectives. Specifically,
the CDU/CSU will seek to limit and regulate immigration into
Germany to a greater extent and to focus more on the
integration of foreigners already resident in Germany. Dahl
said he expects the SPD to accommodate the CDU, which in
turn might lead to increased tension between SPD and Greens.
Dahl also expects that Hesse M-P Roland Koch will exploit
the immigration issue for the final phase of his election

5. (SBU) B-W Economics Minister Walter Doering (FDP) called
on all politicians to clarify the immigration issue as soon
as possible. Immigration, according to Doering, is a
crucial issue for the future of the country and should not
become the subject of a political game. For the B-W SPD,
the Karlsruhe decision was not unexpected. Andreas Reissig,
press spokesman for the B-W SPD, told us that the SPD will
respect the Karlsruhe verdict. The SPD still feels that
Germany needs a modern immigration law and will now start to
work constructively with all political parties to secure a
majority in the Bundesrat.

6. (SBU) Comment: The decision of the Federal Court in
Karlsruhe did not come as a surprise. For several weeks,
all major media sources have reported rumors that Karlsruhe
would declare the immigration law unconstitutional. For the
SPD-Greens coalition in Berlin the decision is not
unexpected, but is nevertheless a heavy blow, particularly
since the immigration law was considered a crowning SPD-
Greens achievement during the last legislative period. The
best chance to bring a new immigration law through the CDU-
dominated Bundesrat is for the SPD and Greens to seek a
compromise with the CDU/CSU. The media has already
reported, however, that Federal Interior Minister Schily
intends to introduce the same law to the Bundestag/Bundesrat
early next year. The CDU/CSU will not consider this a
welcome move and could use the government's unwillingness to
compromise as an additional issue in the upcoming February
2, 2003 state elections in Hesse and Lower Saxony, something
the government would like to avoid.

7. (SBU) Comment Cont.: The SPD may prove to be more
cooperative than its Greens coalition partners as the party
would like to see immigration taken out of the state
election campaigns. Already facing growing voter discontent
and poor poll numbers in Hesse and Lower Saxony, the SPD
would not want to see an emotionally charged issue like
immigration play a role in the elections. A compromise with
the CDU/CSU could do this. What is uncertain is how much
the Greens will be willing to compromise. The CDU/CSU will
push for limits on immigration - something the Greens would
have problems with as this increases the chances, in their
minds, that politically or religiously persecuted people
could be denied entry to Germany. If the SPD agrees to
limits on immigration, there could be trouble in the
coalition. One thing is certain, Koch will use the court's
decision to maximize his chances for reelection in Hesse.
He did, after all, win the 1998 state elections on a
campaign platform that called for limiting immigration. End


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