Merkel admits mistakes made over German spy boss promotion

In a highly unusual move, Angela Merkel on Monday apologized for the promotion of the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

Merkel admits mistakes made over German spy boss promotion
Angela Merkel at a Berlin press conference on Monday. Photo: DPA

The Chancellor said the decision to sack Hans-Georg Maaßen as head of the Protection of the Constitution (BvF), but then move him into a promoted post in the Interior Ministry with better money “could not convince people”.

During a press conference on Monday, Merkel (CDU) admitted that she had been too focused on the “proceedings in the Interior Ministry” and had not paid enough attention to “what people are rightly preoccupied with when they hear about a promotion”.

“I'm sorry that we allowed that to happen,” she said at a press conference. 

Last week SPD leader Andrea Nahles, who had come under massive pressure from her own party, had admitted that all three leaders of the coalition parties had made a mistake in the appointment.

Merkel had already made it clear on Friday after Nahles' comments that the promotion decision would have to be reassessed.

She said the solution the coalition found for Maaßen, who is now going to be a special advisor to the Interior Ministry, was “appropriate” and was more likely to be seen as reasonable by the public “because it is not a promotion”.

The coalition row was sparked after Maaßen gave a newspaper interview in which he questioned the authenticity of video footage from unrest that flared after a fatal knife attack in Chemnitz, allegedly by asylum seekers.

Merkel deplored the xenophobic scenes that followed, but Maaßen questioned whether any “hunting down” of foreigners had taken place. 

While his comments were cheered by the far right, opposition parties demanded he be fired for meddling in politics.

However CSU leader and Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stood by Maaßen, saying he was a “competent, honest employee”.

Moving on 

In Merkel's public address – exactly one year after the Bundestag elections – the Chancellor also said that her government had been too concerned with itself after the long period of coalition building in the past months.

Merkel said the government needed to focus on “solving people’s problems”, and mentioned digitalization, Brexit, the care sector and diesel regulations as issues that needed to be tackled.

She said: “There are many very complicated and important issues that concern people, such as health, care, digitization, but also the UK's imminent departure from the EU.”

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Scholz calls for Ukraine backing as aid wobbles

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday called on Western allies to send a "message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin by renewing their support for Ukraine, as political divisions threatened to hold up aid.

Scholz calls for Ukraine backing as aid wobbles

Russia’s war in Ukraine was one that would likely “drag on for a long time”, Scholz said at a press conference.

“That is why it is important to formulate a long-term perspective that we are prepared to support Ukraine for as long as it is necessary and to the extent it is necessary,” said Scholz, speaking alongside his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte.

Putin was “hoping the readiness in our countries to do what is necessary and to formulate the necessary support diminishes”, Scholz said. “It would be a very important message, if we told him: don’t count on it.”

Germany along with its partners in NATO and the European Union have provided Ukraine with billions in aid to sustain its war effort. But the stream of support has looked at risk of drying up as political divisions on both sides of the Atlantic threaten to block new supplies.

In the EU, Hungary’s prime minister has threatened to block fresh billions in aid, when the bloc’s 27 leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday. At the summit, the EU is eyeing agreements to give Ukraine 50 billion euros ($54 billion) more in financial aid, topping up a weapons fund for Kyiv by five billion euros and opening talks to join the bloc next year.

Meanwhile in the United States, Republican senators last week blocked $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel in a dispute over immigration reforms.

Outgoing Prime Minister Rutte expressed confidence that the Netherlands would continue to back Ukraine, after the far-right topped the polls in national elections last month. “I am convinced that in the Netherlands we have a large majority… that is pro-Ukraine, which will ensure that we continue with support for Ukraine,” Rutte said.

READ ALSO: Scholz says Ukraine support ‘of existential importance’ – despite debt woes