Head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution: “Defensive Democracy” or Border Crossing? The Haldenwang controversy | EUROtoday

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Es is simmering round Thomas Haldenwang. Since the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution made public statements concerning the limits of freedom of expression and the duties of his authority, the talk, together with important feedback, visitor contributions and analyzes from journalists and legal professionals, has not stopped.

When presenting a bundle of measures towards right-wing extremism in February along with his employer, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), the 63-year-old defined that one shouldn’t make the error of solely being attentive to the willingness to make use of violence on this combat. “It’s also about shifting verbal and mental boundaries. We have to be careful that patterns of thought and language do not become embedded in our language.” The accusation of the thought police was instantly raised.

In a visitor article for the “FAZ”, the top of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who’s a CDU member, just lately defended himself towards criticism that his company was degenerating right into a “mood police”. But freedom of expression is “not a license”. With these phrases, Haldenwang didn’t pacify the talk about his workplace, however slightly widened it.

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Maximilian Krah, the AfD's top candidate for the European elections in June, in the Münster Higher Administrative Court

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Thomas Haldenwang (l.), President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution;  AfD leaders Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel
Observation process

Constitutional legal professionals disagree about whether or not Haldenwang is exceeding the boundaries of its competence. In politics, nevertheless, issues have to date remained conspicuously quiet – till essentially the most outspoken site visitors gentle critic inside the site visitors gentle, FDP vice-president Wolfgang Kubicki, spoke up: This interference in a public debate was a “strange step”.

In order to raised perceive the controversy, it’s price taking a better have a look at the duties of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Haldenwang writes in his visitor article: “Even below the criminal law limits and without prejudice to their legality, expressions of opinion can be relevant to constitutional protection law.” In the self-image of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, such a “forward shift in the active protection of the constitution” undoubtedly exists. There isn’t any want for specific prison legal responsibility for these preliminary observations. “Relevance to the protection of the constitution always arises when the boundary is crossed from a radical opinion to an extremist effort,” may be learn in a publication by the Federal Office on the duty and mission of the authority.

The new class “delegitimization of the state”

In the previous, such preliminary observations befell within the case of Islamism – so now there’s a stronger deal with right-wing extremism. These subversive efforts also can come from people, which normally contain linguistic statements. This may be justified by the class of “delegitimization of the state relevant to the protection of the constitution” launched in 2021, as it’s acknowledged within the present report on the safety of the structure. What this implies is “a constant contempt for and agitation against democratically legitimate representatives and institutions of the state”.

It is essential to notice that a easy “delegitimization” assertion has no constitutional relevance. Two features should be added. First, it should be systematic, i.e. repeated commonly and in numerous contexts. Secondly, it’s topic to a restrictive materiality threshold.

The constitutional lawyer Alexander Thiele, professor on the BSP Business and Law School in Berlin, outlined the latter to WELT as follows: “A narrow interpretation will be required, and it must not be about completely insignificant people without any influence.”

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Head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Thomas Haldenwang (l.);  WELT chief commentator Jacques Schuster

If these situations are met, one can not assume that the actions of the top of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution exceeded his authority, stated Thiele. He considers Haldenwang's protection to be lower than completely happy, “since it shows that the potential for misunderstandings is considerable.”

Josef Franz Lindner, professor of constitutional legislation on the University of Augsburg, criticizes the introduction of the brand new class of “delegitimization” from the bottom up: It has no foundation within the Federal Constitutional Protection Act, which overextends the authorized framework for motion. This signifies that the strict authorized necessities for focusing on people should not met – however the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution empowers itself to take action. Haldenwang creates a local weather of uncertainty. “This can have an intimidating effect and represents a structural threat to freedom of expression and thus to democratic discourse as a whole. There is a threat of a definitive good behavior democracy,” warns Lindner.

This is how the teams assess the method

Support comes from Interior Minister Faeser's celebration – which repeatedly emphasizes the combat towards right-wing extremism. The home coverage spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Sebastian Hartmann, welcomes the visitor article by the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution: “Thomas Haldenwang is consciously beginning a debate concerning the limits of freedom of expression. Indirectly, this makes it potential to boost consciousness of the latent and decades-long shift in boundaries in political debates by the acute proper.” From a legal point of view, “the Office for the Protection of the Constitution should additionally be capable of act under the brink of prison legal responsibility – as an expression of defensive democracy.”

The Greens are positioning themselves on the same line as the SPD. Irene Mihalic, parliamentary manager of the Bundestag faction, speaks of the duty of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to deal with developments below the criminal liability threshold. “I don’t want to narrow this down to right-wing extremism. When observing the Islamist scene or other forms of extremism, it is also very important to keep an eye on the entire process where words become actions.”

The FDP parliamentary group says that apart from Kubicki, no one wants to say anything about the issue. But one veteran liberal provides support to Haldenwang. The former Federal Minister of the Interior Gerhart Baum considers Haldenwang's public positioning to be justified. He tells WELT: “These days we are talking about right-wing extremism, which needs to be shown its limits. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has the function of constantly informing us about the dangers that threaten democracy, not just in annual reports.” Haldenwang is taking a very consistent path, with which there is nothing wrong, as long as he acts within the scope of the responsibility of those responsible Minister move.

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Cicero columnist and politician Mathias Brodkorb
Criticism of the protection of the constitution

Regarding the regulation to “delegitimize” the state, Baum believes that everything must take place within the framework of the constitution. “There should be no general snooping on attitudes.” At the same time, he supports the focus on right-wing extremism: “I would draw particular attention to the AfD youth organization, which is a kind of Hitler Youth and, in my opinion, should be banned from associations. “That would be a step towards demonstrating the robustness of democracy.

The Union faction is also holding back from criticism. After all, the Federal Minister of the Interior was still called Horst Seehofer (CSU) when Haldenwang took over his post. Internally it is said: It would be better to have a Christian Democrat in the chair than a completely new election from Faeser. The domestic policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Alexander Throm (CDU), points to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as an early warning system. To do this, statements or actions that are not punishable would also have to be included in the overall picture. However, “communication is required that must not raise any doubts about the non-partisan nature of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution”.

The chairman of the Junge Union (JU), Johannes Winkel, however, is becoming sharper. He tells WELT: “Haldenwang’s statements are worrying. He consciously exceeds the limits of his jurisdiction by entering into the political contest of opinions.”

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The AfD accuses Haldenwang of “unspeakable machinations”. The parliamentary managing director of the parliamentary group, Stephan Brandner, says: “Although he superficially emphasizes the importance of freedom of expression for a liberal constitutional state, at its core it is about restricting opinions and snooping on opinions.”

Left-wing home politician Martina Renner criticizes the powers of the German home secret service towards the background of the Maaßen case, however she nonetheless helps the present President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution: “Haldenwang does not exceed its legal mandate when it engages in attitudes and actions that violate democracy and human dignity, including Statements belong, points out.”