Merkel’s coalition shoots down opposition bid to halt Germany’s ‘killer robots’ development

Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition have blocked legislation aimed at preventing Germany from creating fully autonomous weapons systems, after opposition lawmakers pushed for a moratorium.

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), backed by their allies, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), defeated a motion brought by the Greens in the Bundestag on Friday which called for renewed efforts to bring about a global ban on weapons with no human input – colloquially referred to as “killer robots.”

In a separate motion – also defeated by Merkel’s parliamentary majority – the opposition left had demanded that Germany itself end all development of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Merkel’s conservatives said they wanted to uphold existing international law but were open to the use of artificial intelligence “in the military area.” The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), also members of the chancellor’s coalition, called for a public hearing on the matter, stressing that they were against autonomous weaponry but didn’t want to make “hasty” decisions.

Germany has been at the forefront of a growing debate over “killer robots” – even as the country’s defense industry rolls out new weapons with autonomous systems.

Last year, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams warned that fully autonomous weapons could be deployed in just three to four years, and called on Berlin to lead an international campaign to prevent their development.

At the time, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for a non-binding declaration rather than a global ban.