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Germany to launch reforms in army, defense minister says

Germany’s Defense Ministry plans to begin a reform process in the army’s recruitment and education system amid reports that far-right sympathizers in the military have been plotting to launch hate attacks in the country.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that she would carry out reforms into the German military’s founding principles in an attempt to respond to the issue of far-right sentiments in the army.

The announcement comes a day after police detained a second soldier over his alleged role in a plot by a military officer and a student to carry out an “extremist” attack. Prosecutors said the soldier was suspected of involvement in the plot, which those who hatched it sought to blame on refugees.

The photo shows police officers conducting an investigation at a house in Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany, on April 21, 2017, following the arrest of a German-Russian man in connection with a bomb attack. (AFP photo)

Von der Leyen said she would inform a special session of the parliamentary defense committee later in the day about a probe that the ministry had launched into the presence of the followers of the far-right in the army.

The minister said the reforms would cover a clarification of the armed forces’ founding principles. The post-Nazi era policies, known as the “Traditionserlass,” and updated in 1982, allow troops to have a differentiated view of how to treat the legacy of the German military.

“I am completely clear … that we need a broad process in the military itself, that we must travel together, from recruits to generals, from instructors to the minister,” Von der Leyen told reporters.

The German defense minister added that there was the need in the military for a faster and more efficient reporting scheme that could cover incidents and potential threats. She said the army also needed to revise its education system to increase the political awareness of the troops.

Von der Leyen is a key ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel in the conservative-dominated government. Her handling of the case, as the commander in chief of Germany’s armed forces, could be of critical importance as Merkel and her party are seeking a fourth consecutive term in office in the upcoming elections in September.

Spared of hate attacks the size of those that took place in countries such as France and Belgium over the past two years, Germany has seen a surge in assaults by far-right elements. Many of the attacks have been induced by a historic flow into Germany of refugees, some of them recruited by terror groups to carry out attacks on crowded places in large German cities.

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