Under-fire German spy chief’s ‘promotion’ sparks outrage
Date of publication: 19 09 2018, 14:20
Politicians across the spectrum have expressed outrage at the apparent promotion of Germany’s former spy chief who was removed from his post following allegations of far-right sympathies.
Hans-Georg Maassen, who led the Office of Constitutional Protection, which monitors extremist organizations, will take up a new position as Secretary of State in the Interior Ministry, according to a government statement on Tuesday. Many condemned the move as a “pseudo solution” that mocks those campaigning against the growing threat of far-right violence in Germany.
Maassen is accused of questioning the validity of a video showing far-right protesters apparently chasing migrants without any evidence to support his claim, and therefore legitimizing attempts by far-right groups to downplay the violence in the eastern city of Chemnitz last month. He later backtracked, saying he had been misunderstood.
The announcement came Tuesday evening following a crisis meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, and Social Democrats (SPD) leader Andrea
Nahles and was widely seen as a compromise solution designed to appease both the SPD, which had called for Maassen to go, and Seehofer, a staunch defender of the spy chief.
“The so-called agreement on Maassen is a joke,” Florian Post, an SPD lawmaker in Bavaria, told the RND newspaper group in Germany. “Either the man is fit to hold high office or he isn’t.”
Families Minister and SPD lawmaker Franziska Giffey condemned the move and called for Seehofer to go, according to Reuters.
The Social Democrats were joined in their anger by politicians from the Green Party, Left Party and the liberal FDP.
FDP leader Christian Linder described the decision as a “formulaic pseudo solution,” while Green Party chairwoman Annalena Baerbock expressed concern that Maassen had become Seehofer’s “right-hand” man.
“There are not enough adjectives to describe the drama around this grand coalition,” Baerbock wrote on Twitter. “But honestly, after today, I’m more worried about the future of our democracy.”
Others saw Maassen’s relocation as a reward for Seehofer, whose reaction to the violence in Chemnitz and elsewhere has also provoked widespread anger. In an interview with German newspaper Rheinischen Post earlier this month, Seehofer said he would have joined the protesters if he were not a government minister, but added that he would not have marched with “the extremists.”
The decision to move Maassen was hailed by some lawmakers in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, including Mathias Middelberg, who described the decision as a sensible compromise, Reuters reported.
The strong reaction suggests that the government’s apparent attempt at appeasement has failed and that discontent within the ruling coalition — which was cobbled together in January after previous talks collapsed — is deepening.