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”.
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.”