Policy Brief

Jun 13, 2016

Germany’s Vote to Strike ISIS in Syria

Signalling a shift in its approach to international law

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, President Hollande somewhat surprisingly invoked Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty – the EU’s mutual assistance clause – instead of NATO’s Article 5 to win European support for the military campaign against ISIS in Syria. Germany’s Bundestag answered the call, voting in December to authorize military support. By championing Lisbon’s assistance clause, Germany sent a clear signal to its fellow member states in support of European common defense.




When the German parliament authorized providing military assistance to the coalition striking ISIS targets in Syria in December 2015, the government claimed that collective self-defense – in conjunction with Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty and multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions – provided the international legal basis for military action. In doing so, Germany altered its traditionally cautious approach to jus ad bellum by broadly interpreting UNSC resolutions and adopting an expansive definition of self-defense. German international legal jurisprudence is now more closely aligned with that of its larger military allies, like the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. But what exactly does this mean for the foreign policy of a country that is steadily increasing its degree of involvement in international security affairs? This article argues that Germany’s new approach to jus ad bellum is in keeping with a country that seeks a more active role in international affairs.

Download the article as a pdf by clicking on the box to the right.

Eric Langland was a Robert Bosch Transatlantic Fellow at the DGAP from October 2015 through January 2016. He was previously a staff judge advocate in the US Marine Corps. He holds a juris doctor from Tulane University and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Bibliographic data

DGAPkompakt 14 (June 2016), 5 pp.