The Berlin Christmas market attack of 19 December, 2016 has once again put into question the federal government's powers in dealing with national catastrophes. Germany's interior minister has proposed an overhaul in the security powers held by the federal government which would also make it easier to deport asylum seekers who have been rejected or pose a threat to the country.

In an op-ed for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, said that the recent terror attacks indicated that "we have to face the fact that our state has to be better prepared for difficult times than it is now".

He mentioned that he has already put forward a draft bill that outlined the various measures that could be carried out. "I propose that the federal government be granted greater powers to renounce residency permits," de Maiziere wrote in his article, published on 3 December. In this way, deportations would be"directly carried out" by the federal government, rather than the individual states.

"We don't have federal jurisdiction to deal with national catastrophes. The jurisdiction for the fight against international terrorism is fragmented," he said.

"The federal police's scope of action is restricted to railway stations, airports and border controls," he added, pointing out that the federal governments of other European countries already hold such powers. He stressed that "it is time" to re-examine Germany's security setup.

Angela Merkel and Thomas de Maiziere
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

"The security of the state must be able to be controlled by the state," de Maizière who belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel'sChristian Democratic Union party argued.

Anis Amri, the Tunisian man believed to have been behind the Berlin attack was a migrant who had previously been identified by security agencies as a potential terrorist threat. Since the gruesome incident which led to the deaths of 12 people, the government has been criticised for not taking timely action against Amri and deporting him. Officials in turn have blamed a mix up in certain regional competences.

Despite this, many are wary of de Maizière's proposal to centralise security powers, keeping in mind the country's history with totalitarian governments.