Germany’s outgoing domestic intelligence chief won’t be given a new government job after lashing out at one of the governing parties, the interior minister said Monday. It was a late twist to a saga that has contributed to the administration’s unpopularity.
The center-left Social Democrats, part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, demanded Hans-Georg Maassen’s removal from the BfV spy agency in September after he appeared to downplay far-right violence against migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz.
The haggling that followed reflected poorly on a coalition already notorious for squabbling. Its leaders first agreed to make Maassen a deputy interior minister, technically a promotion with a pay rise, but renegotiated the deal in the face of a backlash.
They then agreed to make him a “special adviser” to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
On Monday, Seehofer said that he was sending the 55-year-old Maassen into early retirement instead. That was prompted, he said, by the manuscript of a speech in which Maassen used “unacceptable formulations” that made continuing to work with him impossible “in whatever function.”
Seehofer said that Thomas Haldenwang, Maassen’s deputy at the BfV, will take on Maassen’s duties until there is a decision on a permanent successor.
German media reported that, in the manuscript of a farewell speech to European counterparts in mid-October, Maassen alleged that “radical left-wing forces” in the Social Democrats wanted to use his comments as an excuse to end a governing coalition they never wanted to join.
He also said that he was known as a “critic of idealistic, naive and left-wing policy on foreigners and security.” Seehofer said those remarks “crossed a line.”
Seehofer, the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union party, had previously defended Maassen. He said he heard about the speech Friday and was “personally disappointed.”
The saga started with Maassen’s response to violent right-wing protests following the killing of a German man, allegedly by migrants, in Chemnitz. Maassen said his agency had no reliable evidence that foreigners had been “hunted” down in the streets – a term Merkel had used.
A video posted by a left-wing group showed protesters chasing down and attacking a foreigner, but Maassen questioned its authenticity.