The joy of seeing each other again can be clearly seen in the interior ministers at their first full face-to-face meeting since the beginning of the corona pandemic. Perhaps that will also help to reach agreement on some contentious issues in the end.

For the first time in two years, the interior ministers of the federal and state governments met again in person.

Under the impression of the Ukraine war and the consequences of the corona crisis and climate change, the heads of department discussed two problem areas in particular: the fight against crime on the Internet and better protection of the population against natural disasters and external attacks of all kinds. The most important results of the Conference of Interior Ministers (IMK):

Financing of civil defense and disaster control: After much hesitation, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) agreed with several of her country colleagues: In the next ten years, the federal government should provide ten billion euros – analogous to the special fund of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr . With the money, which the Bundestag still has to approve, a nationwide system of warning sirens is to be set up, which can then be used both for disaster control and to protect the population in the event of a defense. Cell broadcasting, i.e. the nationwide sending of warnings to all mobile phones logged into a radio cell, which is common in the USA, and the expansion of warning apps are also to be promoted with sums in the millions.

Civil protection: In Würzburg, the ministers signed an agreement to set up a joint competence center for civil protection between the federal and state governments in Bonn. The center, which is staffed by experts from the federal and state governments, is intended on the one hand to collect cross-state information, such as weather data for the rapid prediction of impending storm disasters and data on the nationwide availability of resources such as rescue helicopters or emergency shelters. On the other hand, decisions should also be made in the center: How will the response be under whose leadership? It was important to the federal states that basic competencies are not shifted – the federal government remains essentially responsible for civil defense, for example in the event of a defense. Civil protection remains a matter for the federal states.

Internet crime: According to the Minister of the Interior, the identities of users should in future be able to be assigned to investigators via the IP addresses of the computers. However, the prerequisite should be that an investigating judge orders this. “We have to ensure that at least the providers are disclosed which identities are hidden behind a corresponding IP address,” says the IMK chairman, Bavaria’s department head Joachim Herrmann (CSU). Above all, he hopes that this will lead to better success in the fight against the spread of depictions of sexual abuse of children on the Internet. According to Herrmann, the IMK working group for police issues should examine “which security mechanisms and times of IP addresses appear necessary for successful investigative work” by the autumn conference. Herrmann says it becomes clear that the more closely investigators look, the more cases are becoming known. German investigators receive most of the information from the USA. Lower Saxony’s head of department Boris Pistorius (SPD) explains that the fight against illegal VPN servers that can be used to conceal IP addresses should also be intensified.

Fight against disinformation: Under the impression of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the interior ministers want to take additional measures to ward off disinformation campaigns. They announced a “joint plan of action against disinformation and for a well-fortified democracy”. Central to this is the development of a network in which all relevant actors from the federal, state and local governments are involved. Also to “uncover targeted and controlled disinformation campaigns” and to combat them through communicative measures. The problem is also relevant internationally. The propaganda channel RT, which has since been switched off in Germany, is very popular in Latin America, for example.

Sedition by civil servants: If a civil servant is found guilty of sedition and sentenced to at least six months in prison, he should be able to be removed from government service in the future. The interior ministers have agreed on a corresponding proposal to change the civil servant status law, said Hesse’s department head Peter Beuth (CDU). Under federal law, a criminal conviction of at least one year is required for an officer to be removed from public service. The tightening should strengthen the basic trust of the citizens in the state, said Beuth.

Deportations: At earlier conferences of interior ministers, deportations, for example to Afghanistan, had often been the subject of arguments for hours. That was not the case this time – also in view of the current situation in Afghanistan. According to information from participants, the interior ministers of the federal states only asked Faeser to present their concept for the “return offensive” announced in the coalition agreement between the SPD, Greens and FDP by the next meeting in autumn. She promised to do so, it said. Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Minister Tamara Zieschang (CDU) called for more pressure on uncooperative countries of origin. She said: “There can no longer be a trip by the federal government to West African countries where the procurement of replacement passport papers and the return of compatriots is not offensively addressed.”