France and Germany launch new joint police force

Together with the Gendarmerie Nationale, the German Federal Police will be sent to former French colonies. The joint unit is already deployed during summit protest, football matches and in „border areas“

At present, the German Federal Police sends around 200 officers on missions outside the European Union. In „Police Reconstruction Aid“, they are working as „trainers, mentors and observers“. The Federal Police also regularly train police forces in third countries, mostly in the field of air and border security and the recognition of false identity documents. In Africa, the Federal Police is particularly active in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. In the summer, German officers travelled to Niger for an „exchange of experience“.

Now the German government want to extend its police engagement in Africa to former French colonies. The operations will be carried out within the framework of the new „Franco-German Task Force“ („Deutsch-Französische Einsatzeinheit“, DFEE) with the French National Gendarmerie. The two governments had agreed the set up as a „joint unit for stabilisation operations in third countries“ in the Treaty of Aachen. On the German side, the DFEE is stationed at the Federal Police in Bad Bergzabern in Rhineland-Palatinate, in France at the Prefecture of Grand Est in Metz.

Military tactics

German police officers can only operate in areas of tension to a limited extent. The separation requirement anchored in the German Constitution does not allow them to be placed under military command. Germany therefore does not have so-called „robust police units“ such as those deployed by the European Union, the United Nations or individual NATO states in military missions. In countries such as Afghanistan, Mali or Haiti, these „Integrated Police Units“ (IPU) are intended to safeguard public order on the fringes of anti-terrorist missions or after civil wars and disasters.

The heavily armed European police units are recruited from gendarmeries. Their members receive basic military training and are usually paid by the Ministry of Defence. In their own country, however, they are always deployed under the responsibility of the Ministries of the Interior. In Europe, such gendarmeries exist in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Lithuania. All countries are now members of the „European Gendarmerie Force“, which was founded by the French and Italian governments in 2004.

The Gendarmerie Nationale, with which the German Federal Police forms the DFEE, is also a military unit with experience abroad. Through cooperation, the German police inevitably acquires quasi-military skills and knowledge. For example, the operational tactics of gendarmes are generally more confrontational than those of civilian police forces; in addition to tear gas, they also use rubber bullets. This has already become clear in an exchange of experience initiated and funded by the European Commission over ten years ago. In three „European Police Forces Trainings“ (EUPFT), more than a dozen European police and gendarmerie troops had practiced together for several weeks. The European External Action Service subsequently conducted further „European Union Police Services Trainings“ (EUPST). A third series runs until 2022 under the name „European Union Police and Civilian Services Training“ (EUPCST).

Deployment at G7 summit

The two EU training sessions focused on counter-insurgency operations. But the scenarios also included securing elections, major political or sporting events. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior calls the same spectrum for the new „Franco-German Task Force“. In addition to missions in „(francophone) third countries“, it is to be deployed at „major events on German and French territory“ and „in the common border area“.

Details of the DFEE are regulated by an administrative agreement signed by Germany and France in October. The unit is currently still being set up and consists of ten officials from each country. Even before the administrative agreement was signed, however, the bilateral troops were already on patrol at popular festivals such as the Munich Oktoberfest and the Cannstatter Wasen. Further deployments took place at the G7 summit in France and in preparation for the Tour de France. Six weeks ago, the DFEE was involved in a rather unsuccessful „helicopter jump search“ at the German-French border. This year, the force will also be seen at the European Football Championship.

Image: Launch of the new „Franco-German Task Force“ (Bundespolizei on Twitter).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.