Dispute over vaccine supply: the erroneous oath of office debate

In the vaccine dispute, critics repeatedly refer to the oath of office of Merkel and ministers. However, they ignore the second part of the oath.

Angela Merkel took her oath of office on November 22, 2005 Photo: Sven Simon / imago

The chancellor? An oath breaker? The accusation is currently very popular, initiated by the at the beginning of the year Picture-Newspaper, welcomed by election campaigners of the SPD and meanwhile passed on umpteen times by right-wing national letter writers and Facebook users.

The reasoning in short: In her oath of office, Angela Merkel swore that she would avert harm to the German people. Accordingly, she should have made sure that the Germans get as much as possible of the scarce corona vaccine as quickly as possible. The joint order with the EU partners – among other things with the aim of not driving up prices for everyone – is consequently a breach of the oath. With the same reasoning, Merkel has been accused by the right of breaking oaths in the euro crisis (because of the euro rescue package for other countries) and in the refugee summer 2015 (because of the admission of foreigners).

Fortunately, the oath of office enshrined in the Basic Law does not in fact allow this conclusion to be drawn so easily. On the one hand, not because acting in solidarity does not automatically contradict German interests. In the corona crisis, for example, because a country alone in a networked continent cannot end the pandemic.

On the other hand, the oath of office has a second part. In it the Chancellor swore to uphold the Basic Law and thus human dignity and to exercise “justice towards everyone” – not just towards the population in Germany. From this second part one could deduce that it would be wrong to buy as many vaccine doses as possible from the market. After all, it would be unfair if there were no longer any vaccines available for non-Germans.

Even the oath of office demands a balance between purely German interests and what is morally correct, which can also be altruistic. In the struggle for this one can of course emphasize one or the other more strongly. But a simple answer cannot be derived from the oath.


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