German Cabinet Lambasted for ‘Ousting’ Spy Chief Maassen by ‘Promoting’ Him
Germany’s Cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire by various politicians as well as many media commentators for “removing” the chief of its domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, who is suspected of sympathizing with the far right, by making him a state secretary of the Interior Ministry.
Maassen had caused outrage, among other things, by questioning the authenticity of video footage reportedly showing far right activists chasing people of migrant background during the recent far right and neo-Nazi outbursts in the East German city of Chemnitz.
Even though he was removed as chief of the BfV, the domestic intelligence, he was also appointed a state secretary in the Interior Ministry, a position with the rank of a deputy minister and a higher pay grade.
The German Cabinet explicitly said, however, that there he would not be overseeing the work of the BfV.
Maassen’s removal and re-appointment was agreed on Tuesday in a coalition deal among German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of her party’s two coalition partners — Andrea Nahles of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and Horst Seehofer of Bavaria’s conservative CSU.
Seehofer has been defending the controversial spy chief, and has also failed to set a date for finding a person to replace him as head of the BfV.
“I myself don’t have any names in mind,” Seehofer told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, as cited by DW, adding that a successor would be appointed “soon.”
Social Democrat leader Nahles justified her support for the Maassen compromise in a tweet late on Wednesday afternoon, arguing that a number of reforms her party had been pushing for necessitate a stable Cabinet.
“I think Seehofer’s decision to take on Maassen as an undersecretary in the interior ministry is wrong, but I’m firmly convinced that the SPD should not sacrifice this government because Mr. Seehofer has hired a civil servant we consider unsuitable,” Nahles wrote.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the shifting of Maassen from the BfV to the Interior Ministry.
“[It is] necessary that all coalition parties have trust in the president of the BfV. This trust was not there in some parts of the coalition… [It is important that Maassen has no control of the BfV] neither as president of the BfV nor from within the Interior Ministry. I think this was an important decision, and the right one,” she stated.
Many among the SPD ranks, however, were enraged by the development of the Maassen case, with the leader of the patry’s youth organization calling it “a slap in the face” and asking: “Why should we remain part of this coalition?”
“Maassen gets promoted for his failure in office. If disloyalty and incompetence are the new criteria for a career, then Seehofer has a good chance of becoming the next UN Secretary General,” tweeted former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD.
“A man who has triggered a unique crisis of trust, government and credibility should not be given a leadership position… [Maassen] ran the business of right-wing populists,” national weekly paper Die Zeit wrote, as cited by DW.
(Banner image: German national radio)