When Marco Buschmann was asked after a lecture to students at Harvard University in Boston about the upcoming midterm elections in the USA, the Attorney General was reticent. As a member of the federal government, Buschmann explained that he did not want to comment on elections in another country, obediently following the rules of diplomacy.
When Washington had recently been about his own government, the FDP politician had shown himself to be less reserved. Buschmann was asked at the press conference after his meeting with US counterpart Merrick Garland what he thought of the Chancellor's plan to sell parts of the Port of Hamburg to a Chinese company.
"Critical infrastructure in Germany should not be under the control of the Chinese government," the liberal replied. It is a question of independence: "We should not repeat the mistakes we made in relations with Russia in relations with China."
Now this project by Olaf Scholz (SPD) is also being rejected by six other ministries involved in the approval process of the controversial deal. However, the ministries of economics, interior, defence, transport and finance as well as the foreign office formulated their concerns in the government's internal consultation process. Buschmann publicly criticized the chancellor in front of cameras, abroad and in the presence of the US Attorney General. That's a different quality.
The FDP politician may have formulated his criticism of his own chancellor in emotional exuberance. His previous conversation with Garland had been successful. The American responded to Buschmann's initiatives to hold the first meeting of G-7 justice ministers in Berlin at the end of November and to work more closely together in the prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine. During the press conference, the German was also allowed to take a seat under an oil painting that showed former US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, a liberal politician - as a liberal minister on the first transatlantic mission, you can sometimes forget the diplomatic rules.
It is possible that the strategically thinking Bushman, who usually tends to be sober, has also recognized the chances of the question with cool calculation. After the electoral failures in the state elections this year, the FDP wants to emphasize its profile in the traffic light coalition more prominently in the future. The port deal envisaged by the chancellor, which would mean increasing economic dependence on China, is a suitable vehicle for this, as the EU Commission and the most important western allies warn against giving Beijing any further influence.
Maybe Buschmann just stayed true to himself. The justice minister is one of those cabinet members who have clearly criticized the previous governments' appeasement policy towards Russia after the annexation of Crimea. With the analysis that the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline through the Baltic Sea was the German contribution to the outbreak of the Ukraine war, he even goes the furthest. But then to remain silent when the chancellor doesn't want to draw any lessons from this for dealing with China would be inconsistent.
Buschmann consistently showed his support for Ukraine in the USA. In contrast to the volume and speed of arms deliveries, Germany is an international pioneer in the area of responsibility of the Minister of Justice, namely the prosecution of war crimes. On the one hand, this has to do with the fact that Germany implemented the so-called principle of universal jurisdiction, according to which a state prosecutes international crimes even though they were not committed on its sovereign territory, by or against one of its citizens, in its national law at an early stage. That is why many torturers used by the Syrian dictator Assad have already been convicted by German higher regional courts.
However, Buschmann is trying to expand the resulting leading role. "Today's meeting with my American counterpart was all about the brutal Russian war in Ukraine," Buschmann said after his visit to Garland. "The war crimes committed there must find a strong answer - in the language of the law."
Closer cooperation with permanent contacts on both sides of the Atlantic has been agreed. Buschmann also hopes that the Americans will provide the German Attorney General with evidence. Nobody gains such extensive knowledge from technical reconnaissance as the USA.
Before the students at Harvard, Buschmann derived German commitment from history. The historical crimes of National Socialism created a special responsibility to prosecute war crimes: "War criminals must not feel safe anywhere in the world, especially not in Germany," said the minister. Impunity for the Russian war of aggression and war crimes would be "such a great defeat for the basic idea and validity of international law that we must do everything we can to avoid it".
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