G10-Kommission

A Bundestag committee whose four members, not mandatorily Bundestag members, are appointed by the Bundestag’s intelligence-agencies-monitoring parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium. The G10 committee monitors compliance with the German constitution’s requirement for individuals’ rights to letter secrecy [Briefgeheimnis], postal secrecy [Postgeheimnis] and telecommunications secrecy [Fernmeldegeheimnis].

The G10 committee supposedly must approve each surveillance or search of German citizens’ phones or computers by Germany’s intelligence agencies, which can only be possible if such surveillance is done on a very small scale. In July 2013, Spiegel-Online wrote that only 156 surveillance actions were approved by the G10 committee in 2011. And that the foreign intelligence service BND is permitted to ask for broadly-defined surveillance that is not however allowed to exceed 20% of the information out there and usually supposedly hovers at only 5%.

(Gay TSAYN comb eess y own.)

Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium, PKG

“Parliamentary supervisory committee” whose eleven Bundestag members are said to supervise Germany’s intelligence agencies Bundesnachrichtendienst, Militärischer Abschirmdienst and federal Verfassungsschutz. The P.K.G. is a German parliamentary committee presumably similar to e.g. the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Its meetings are secret, held in a supposedly unsnoopable room, and its members cannot discuss what they learn, even with other Bundestag members.

This committee is the nominal control of Germany’s intelligence agencies. Spiegel.de wrote there can be disagreement between the eleven committee members and the intelligence agencies about what is worth reporting to the committee about the activities of the agencies’ tens of thousands of employees, quoting P.K.G. member the excellent Christian Ströbele (Green party) as saying in frustration “How are we supposed to control the secret services when we get no information?”

Update on 10 Jul 2014: Clemens Binninger (C.D.U.), a former policeman, is apparently chairing the PKG.

(Pah lah men TAH rish ess   con TROLL gray me oom,   pay kah gay.)

Ringtausch

A circular exchange.

Concept used to describe how intelligence agencies from countries in the Five Eyes alliance kindly spy on the other four countries’ populations so each can say they’re not spying on themselves. A Leftists party speaker used the term in the Bundestag discussion on the occasion of the first day of work for the Bundestag’s new N.S.A. investigation committee [NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss].

The American N.S.A. probably won’t send anyone to testify before this Bundestag committee. The eight members (six government, two opposition) will nevertheless try to find out what Germany’s intelligence agencies have been doing and witnessing, and how they’ve been cooperating. Like the U.S.A., Germany appears to have a parliamentary committee that is nominally in charge of its intelligence agencies but might be more of a powerless excuse that is not even fully informed: the Parliamentarisches Kontrollgremium.

(RINGED ow! sh.)

Null Null Sieben

The 007 license plate of the car that dropped off Chancellor Merkel at the E.U. summit on 24 Oct 2013 in Brussels, where the hot unofficial topic was outrage at revelations about U.S. spying on the German chancellor’s cell phone and in previously-unknown but huge volumes in France. Possibly also Italy, including the Vatican. And now Spain.

“Spying on your friends is not okay.” —Angela Merkel (C.D.U.)

“That would represent an entirely new quality, and cast a new light on all statements made by the N.S.A. in the past few months.” —Ronald Pofalla (C.D.U.), who as Kanzleramtschef, the chancellor’s chief of staff, is responsible for coordinating and monitoring Germany’s intelligence agencies. He had declared the scandal over last summer in response to assurances from the U.S.A.

“We will not allow ourselves to be treated like that by the Americans. The trust has been harmed. I think a few things have to happen now before this trust can be restored.” —Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.), interior minister

“The Americans are not fully aware of the situation. And then you’re told things like, ‘but everyone spies on everybody.’ And that’s where you have to say loudly and clearly: that is not okay. Friends are not allowed to eavesdrop on friends. And how would people react in America—this is what we’re saying on our visit here, how we’re describing it—if the Bundesnachrichtendienst were to spy on the U.S. president.” —Elmar Brok (C.D.U.), chair of the European Parliament committee for Foreign Affairs, currently visiting Washington D.C. to complain

“The chancellor’s cell phone is important, but the private and business communications of normal burghers is just as important. We will stand up for the protection of the basic rights of German citizens[…]” —Thomas Oppermann (S.P.D.), chair of the Bundestag’s Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium intelligence committee that is tasked with but not always successful at monitoring and controlling Germany’s intelligence agencies. Mr. Oppermann may be hoping to become the new Justice Minister, replacing Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (F.D.P.).

“What sort of terrorists are they trying to find in the chancellor’s cell phone? This is a really absurd indication that the reasons they’ve told us so far absolutely cannot be true.” —Christian Ströbele (Green Party), member of the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium intelligence committee

“It’s good that the clarification of the facts appears to be starting, now, and that at least a healthy distrust vis-à-vis the American intelligence services also appears to be arising, now.”  —Steffen Bockhahn (Leftists), member of the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium

“The German government now mistrusts all claims and assurances made by the U.S. government in the entire N.S.A. affair. Now that we know they bugged the chancellor’s cell phone, the U.S. government can no longer sustain its claim from last summer that it did not injure Germany’s interests. It did, and representatives of all parties agree on this, utterly deceive Germany.” —Ulrich Deppendorf, ARD studio head and news editor-in-chief

“I think we should be honest that we have the capacity to obtain information that we didn’t have before. What we need now is the appropriate legislation that ensures we are not seeking or not using the capacity that we have.” —Fredrik Reinfeldt (centrist Moderate Party), Prime Minister of Sweden. (Approximate quote; his original English was drowned out by the German translation.)

“So we have to think about what we need. What data protection agreements do we need, what transparency do we need. We stand between the United States of America and Europe, before shared challenges […]” —Angela Merkel (C.D.U.)

“When I walk into a negotiation and must fear that the other side, a friendly democracy, already knows from espionage what I want to say in that negotiation, that’s no longer eye-to-eye.” —Martin Schulz (S.P.D.), president of the European Parliament

007, might be funny if the matter weren’t so serious. […] But this isn’t just about the chancellor’s cell phone. The much bigger concern is industrial espionage, which could cost European companies billions.” –ARD correspondent Rolf-Dieter Krause

In a wonderful interview given in German on the evening of Oct. 24, E.U. commissioner Viviane Reding said she’d heard that England’s government did not want European data protection but Poland, Italy and France had joined together to fight for it. Also: “Both of us, both the Americans and the Europeans, need this Transatlantic Trade Agreement. But to be able to negotiate an agreement, you need trust. I think this trust is no longer quite as present. That’s why the first thing that must be done is to restore that trust. And then, so that Europe can speak with a single voice, for that you need strong data protection that is Europe-wide. And that has to be the basis from which we can then move into negotiations with the Americans.”

“The whole time, Frau Merkel acted as if the affair was unimportant, as if it wouldn’t impact anyone in a big way. But then when it affects her, she gets upset? When all German burghers were affected, when it was about protecting burghers’ basic rights, she didn’t do anything then.” —Anton Hofreiter (new Green party co-chair)

“It is strange: umpteen million communications from Germans alone are recorded every month by British and U.S. intelligence agencies. With these extraordinary claims from the documents supplied by the ex-N.S.A. man Edward Snowden the snooping story exploded into public view last summer, but left the German government, and one must say most Germans as well, rather strangely unmoved. Then last night a single cell phone was added to the mix—OK, it was the chancellor’s—and suddenly all hell broke loose.” —Claus Kleber, moderator at ZDF heute journal

The new Bundestag scheduled an extraordinary meeting or special session [Sondersitzung] to discuss the N.S.A. spying affair in mid-November. All political parties also agree a parliamentary inquiry [Untersuchungsausschuss] is “unavoidable.” Many parties would like to invite Edward Snowden to testify before the committee, after which he can apply for asylum in Germany.

Update on 28 Oct 2013: On Thursday, Brazil and Germany will introduce a draft United Nations resolution against N.S.A. spying. FAZ.net reported that a large majority was predicted to approve it, and that though United Nations General Assembly resolutions tend to be nonbinding, unlike Security Council resolutions, the fact that Brazil and Germany are behind this and that so many of the 193 member states support it give it extra significance. Brazilian reporter Sonia Bridi from TV Globo said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government wants the world to make international regulations for internet access and international telecommunications such that no individual state can ever again have access to the world’s key communications hubs or nodes.

Update on 26 Nov 2013: The United Nations Human Rights Committee approved Germany and Brazil’s U.N. resolution against data spying. It will be sent on to the U.N. General Assembly, where the nonbinding resolution is considered certain to pass in December 2013.

“Today, for the first time, a resolution in the United Nations expressly specified that human rights have to be protected online just as much as they must be protected offline.” –Peter Wittig, permanent representative to the U.N. for Germany since 2009

(Newel   newel   ZEEB en.)

Steuerabkommen

“Tax agreement.” Germany’s ruling CDU/CSU + FDP coalition negotiated an agreement with Switzerland that untaxed German money in Swiss bank accounts could be subjected to a one-time tax (21% to 41%) and repatriated to Germany with no prosecution for tax evasion. This agreement had to be ratified by German parliament but was not because the SPD and Green Party objected to the low rates, saying tax avoiders would be granted immunity yet pay a lower overall tax rate than people who had obeyed the laws. The matter will now undergo arbitration.

Update on 06 Dec 2012: A tax agreement between Greece and Switzerland is under discussion that it is hoped would return 9 billion euros to Greece. Again, the tax evaders would pay between 21% and 41% and remain anonymous. Negotiations have been ongoing for two years. Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that over 20 billion euros were moved from Greece to Swiss banks between 2009 and 2011.

Gerhard Schick, finance speaker for the Green Party in the Bundestag, said in a position paper quoted in this Süddeutsche Zeitung article about the constitutionally anchored tax-free status of Greek shipping families that the EU should be negotiating these tax agreements with Switzerland, that the Swiss tendency to negotiate separately with each EU country gives Switzerland disproportionately too much power. “Divide et impera.”

Update on 12 Dec 2012: Arbitration was unsuccessful.

(SHTOY err OBB come en.)

Wahlrecht

“Voting law.” The Bundestag is debating an overhaul of Germany’s electoral system. On 17 Oct 2012, Spiegel reported one issue was that the reforms currently under discussion might increase the size of the Bundestag to 700 M.P.’s (Spiegel-Online, “Bigger Than North Korea,” saying Germany would have the world’s second-largest parliament after China). Electoral reforms were necessitated by the Federal Constitutional Court’s decision in July 2012 that parts of the current law were unconstitutional, particularly with regard to Überhangmandate (which will be balanced out by proportional extra seats for the other parties). If a final agreement is reached rapidly, the new law could be in effect by Christmas 2012.

Update on 21 Feb 2013: The Bundestag reached an agreement on the new election rules. Überhangmandat seats will be canceled out by Ausgleichsmandat, compensation mandate, seats.

(VALL wrecked.)

Gläserne Abgeordnete

“Transparent parliament members.” What the CDU/CSU wants to avoid, which is why they oppose full disclosure of Bundestag members’ supplementary income. The CDU/CSU is concerned that full disclosure of supplementary incomes would make it more difficult for middle-sized businesspeople to become M.P.’s. The FDP is worried about protecting lawyers’ privacy.

(GLAY zer neh   OB geh ord net teh.)

Nebeneinkünfte

“Side incomes,” translated by dict.leo.org as ancillary or auxiliary income; casual, incidental earnings or discretionary earnings; emoluments and perquisites. On 16 Oct. 2012 the Bundestag debated the SPD’s proposal to have Bundestag members disclose all incomes in addition to their M.P. compensation. Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU party was opposed, as was their coalition partner the FDP, who said their primary concern was that working lawyers would have to disclose their clients. Greens and Leftists said they were ready for full transparency.

The debate was triggered by attacks on a vulnerability of the SPD’s challenger to Angela Merkel in the upcoming election. Peer Steinbrück, who was called the Bankenschreck (terror of the banks, banks’ bane) when he was Finance Minister under an SPD government, has since then been receiving high speaking fees from banks and e.g. hedge funds. Calls from rival party members for Steinbrück to disclose these fees have turned up opportunities to improve the laws regulating extra-parliamentary compensation. The SPD’s proposal suggested disclosing the type of work, amount paid and payer’s name, because apparently that’s not required now. Violations would be punished by a reduction in the M.P.’s salary.

Tagesschau.de reports that Peer Steinbrück (SPD) is the top earner in the Bundestag, followed by mostly members of the ruling conservative CDU/CSU and FDP parties (nine of the top ten, yet because of the nature of the old system these are minimum incomes and not accurate numbers).

Update on 25 Oct 2012: The ruling coalition CDU/CSU + FDP finds themselves in a bind because while they wanted to attack Steinbrück, they never wanted transparency for supplementary M.P. incomes, reports Spiegel-Online. The ruling coalition has now agreed to a reform plan that changes the disclosure system from three steps to ten steps. The three-step scale was up to EUR 3500, 3500 to 7000, and >7000, monthly. The ten-step scale will be, either monthly or annually (hasn’t been decided yet), EUR 1000 to 3500, to 7000, 15000, 30000, 50000, 75000, 100000, 150000, 250000 and >250000. With the old scale an M.P. who earned e.g. EUR 150,000 for a speaking engagement only had to disclose EUR 7001. The SPD is concerned that under the new system an M.P. could take ten EUR-900 fees without having to disclose, so they have proposed disclosure of fees exceeding EUR 10000 in one year. The SPD and Leftists (Die Linken) parties remain committed to full transparency. The Greens have proposed two models: full disclosure or a thirteen-step scale. The frequency of mandatory reporting is also still under debate; AbgeordnetenWatch.de points out that with modern technology this useful information can be made available very rapidly to voters.

Update on 22 Feb 2013: Today the Bundestag agreed on a new 10-step plan to disclose M.P.’s supplementary incomes.

(NAY ben eye n coon fteh.)

Überhangmandate

“Overhang mandates,” overhang seats. Unusual parliamentary seats resulting from Germany’s two-vote election system. With their first vote, burghers choose a candidate. With their second vote, a political party. If a party has more direct candidates elected in a district than the seats they would have won by percentage, the party can still retain the directly elected excess candidates as Überhangmandate.

According to ZDF heute journal reporting on 25 July 2012, after Angela Merkel’s government’s recent electoral reforms there were an unprecedented 24 overhang seats in the subsequent election, a new record, and all belonged to Angela Merkel’s ruling party CDU/CSU. The Federal Constitutional Court has now declared the recent reforms imperfect and in need of revision, during which there will presumably be substantially more debate and resistance from the opposition, who now say these reforms were in fact rather inconsistent and hastily pushed through the legislative process.

In future, the Constitutional Court said, a maximum of only 15 overhang seats will be permissible.

Update on 21 Feb 2013: The Bundestag reached an agreement on the new election rules. Überhangmandat seats will be canceled out by Ausgleichsmandat, compensation mandate, seats.

(OO ber hong mon DOT eh.)

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