Cablegate: Uproar Follows Plan to Relocate German Crime Bureau
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS FRANKFURT 000772
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PINR GM
SUBJECT: Uproar Follows Plan to Relocate German Crime Bureau
1. SUMMARY. Protests against the German government's
surprise proposal to relocate to Berlin much of the BKA
(Bundeskriminalamt - German equivalent of the FBI) have
prompted the Interior Ministry to back down for the moment.
Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD/Social Democrat)
announced in early January that the terrorism and
transnational crime offices of the BKA would move to Berlin
in order to better coordinate the German response on these
issues. Under the plan, the BKA would move 2500 jobs from
Wiesbaden to Berlin and close its subsidiary in Bonn-
Meckenheim (1000 employees). Critics (some within Schily's
own party) argue that the move to Berlin would damage the
BKA as an organization, cost at least EUR 500 million (USD
625 million), and threaten German federalism. END SUMMARY.
2. On January 8, Interior Minister Otto Schily announced a
plan to relocate the BKA's terrorism and transnational crime
units from Wiesbaden (Hesse) and Meckenheim (North Rhine-
Westphalia - NRW) to Berlin over the next four years.
Schily asserted that the move would facilitate cooperation
between the BKA and other German law enforcement agencies,
citing difficulties last year coordinating the response to
the kidnapping of German tourists in northern Africa.
Opposition Loud and Wide
3. Reaction to Schily's announcement was immediate and
overwhelmingly negative. Hesse Minister-President (M-P)
Roland Koch (CDU/Christian Democrat) blasted Schily for not
informing him beforehand and called the move "outrageous"
and politically motivated. Critics from within Schily's own
party, including NRW Minister-President Peer Steinbrueck,
have been almost as vocal. Steinbrueck wrote a letter to
Chancellor Schroeder on the matter calling for
reconsideration of the relocation plans. In an unusual
move, federal Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-
Zeul (SPD) spoke to 6000 protesters at a rally in Wiesbaden
on January 24, criticizing Schily for not consulting the
cabinet and demanding that Schily withdraw the relocation
plan. Many BKA employees have vigorously opposed the move,
claiming that they were "hoodwinked" by BKA leadership.
4. In a letter to minister-presidents in the other fifteen
German states, Koch argued that the BKA move would call into
question Germany's strong tradition of federalism and
potentially jeopardize other federal agencies around
Germany, including the German Supreme Court (Karlsruhe),
Federal Labor Office (Nuremberg), and Office for the
Protection of the Constitution (Cologne). Koch has received
support from other minister-presidents, notably Rheinland-
Pfalz M-P Kurt Beck (a locally popular SPD figure with
strong party connections) and Bavarian M-P Edmund Stoiber.
5. Media critics point to the high cost of the relocation
(at least 500 million euros) and question whether the move
would make the BKA more effective. Schily took hits from
all around, as Schroeder hesitated to back the plan and news
media obtained a videotape of a high-level BKA meeting,
casting BKA leadership in a negative light. Schily has
committed to reconsider the proposal "from the ground up";
political observers expect BKA president Kersten to lose his
job over the controversy.
6. COMMENT: Schily's failure to seek cabinet approval or
consult state politicians before announcing the plan has
left him isolated against a strong and bipartisan tide of
opposition. A strong BKA is a critical component of German
cooperation in the war on terror, and the ongoing debate
over the proposed move to Berlin could hamper the agency's
operational effectiveness, whatever the merits of Schily's
plans to bring all terrorism-fighting agencies together in
one city. Schily's announcement follows a decision last
year to move the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND - Germany's
equivalent of the CIA) from Pullach (near Munich) to Berlin.
Concerns over upheaval within the BKA, the high cost of
relocation, and political fallout in the important states of
North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse may sink the idea for good.