Bundestag agrees to end use of fax machines

That fax could most certainly have been an email.

It was even difficult to find a picture of a fax machine for this article.
It was even difficult to find a picture of a fax machine for this article.Getty Images

Berlin-For most Germany observers, 2021 will be a watershed year as Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves her post atop Europe’s biggest economy. But for those who have to deal with German bureaucracy, it will be a turning point after the Bundestag, the country’s lower house of parliament, Thursday agreed to end its use of fax machines, hopefully setting an example for the rest of the country.

The Ältestenrat, a parliamentary committee that advises the legislative body, on Thursday recommended switching off the 900 devices as Merkel’s coalition government ends its term in September, the Saarbrücker Zeitung reported.

Although fax machines remain in use around the world to fulfil privacy niches, German bureaucrats have a love of the devices over fears e-mails could be hacked and snail mail could fall in the wrong hands or arrive late. Completing simple government interactions sometimes requires downloading an app and uploading a pdf that would have been easier to send as an e-mail.

The move came after younger parliamentarians for years expressed dismay at how integral the anachronistic machines are to Bundestag life. The business-friendly FDP last year reportedly discovered the 900 figure as part of a parliamentary enquiry.

In a sign of how archaic the machines are, Ältestenrat literally translates as “Elders Council”. It's intended as a body of the most experienced parliamentarians advising on protocols and procedures – so even the Bundestag's grandparents would prefer an e-mail.