Merkel falls from grace as top EU moral author­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY JOHN DYER

BERLIN | She was the dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and moral voice on the Con­ti­nent just a short time ago, but Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s im­age and power base have taken hits in re­cent days.

Rev­e­la­tions that Ger­many’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices spied on the FBI, Amer­i­can de­fense con­trac­tors, Euro­pean al­lies and even re­spected in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Red Cross have fur­ther dented Mrs. Merkel’s author­ity at a time when she is po­lit­i­cally weaker than ever.

The ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris are only fu­el­ing doubts in Ger­many about the chan­cel­lor’s forth­right pol­icy of wel­com­ing Syr­ian and other Mid­dle East­ern refugees — a huge per­cent­age of whom say Ger­many is their pre­ferred new home. Like Pres­i­dent Obama, Mrs. Merkel stood strong Mon­day for a wel­com­ing pol­icy for flee­ing mi­grants, de­spite fears that Is­lamic State op­er­a­tives could be in­cluded among the masses.

“We owe that not only to the vic­tims but also to se­cu­rity in our coun­tries and to the refugees, a large num­ber of whom are flee­ing ter­ror­ism,” Mrs. Merkel said, even as many of Berlin’s part­ners in the Euro­pean Union are tight­en­ing con­trols and build­ing border walls to hold back the grow­ing crowds of refugees.

But PEGIDA, the anti-Is­lam move­ment that has staged a string of ral­lies around the coun­try in re­cent months, ac­cused Mrs. Merkel at a Dres­den demonstration Mon­day of be­ing at least partly re­spon­si­ble for the car­nage in Paris.

Thou­sands joined the far-right move­ment in cheer­ing a speaker who blamed the ji­hadi at­tacks on what he la­beled Europe’s failed im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

“The at­tacks didn’t come out of nowhere,” Siegfried Daebritz, a PEGIDA spokesman, told the Dres­den gath­er­ing, where pro­test­ers chanted, “Merkel must go!”

“They are the re­sult of an im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that in­vites peo­ple from com­pletely for­eign cul­tures with com­pletely dif­fer­ent val­ues into coun­tries and re­gions whose cul­ture many of th­ese im­mi­grants de­spise,” Mr. Daebritz said, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Agence France-Presse news ser­vice.

The spy scan­dal that broke last week has hit hard in a coun­try where pri­vacy and re­sis­tance to gov­ern­ment snoop­ing are highly val­ued.

Mrs. Merkel, who had dom­i­nated the Ger­man po­lit­i­cal scene since her elec­tion as chan­cel­lor a decade ago, seized the moral high ground in a se­ries of re­cent ex­po­sures of Amer­i­can sur­veil­lance of Ger­man and other Euro­pean lead­ers. Last year, for in­stance, when ac­cu­sa­tions sur­faced that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency had tapped her mo­bile phone for more than a decade, Mrs. Merkel ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment, say­ing friends don’t spy on friends.

Now, at the same time her open-door pol­icy for Syr­ian refugees is caus­ing rifts in her 10-year gov­ern­ing coali­tion, the chan­cel­lor is on the de­fen­sive on in­tel­li­gence, too.

“Merkel’s dic­tum — spy­ing among friends is a no-go — is not cred­i­ble any­more,” said Ste­fan Heu­mann, an an­a­lyst at the New Re­spon­si­bil­ity Foun­da­tion, a Berlin-based think tank.

Amer­i­can of­fi­cials had al­ways been rightly skep­ti­cal of Mrs. Merkel’s sur­prised and an­gry pub­lic re­ac­tion to sus­pected phone tap­ping, he said.

“They said right from the be­gin­ning that other coun­tries would be spy­ing and al­ways felt the Ger­man crit­i­cism was hyp­o­crit­i­cal,” Mr. Heu­mann said. “They feel vin­di­cated by the re­cent dis­clo­sures.”

Last week, two sep­a­rate news re­ports re­vealed that the Bun­desnachrich­t­en­di­enst (BND), the Ger­man spy agency, had been snoop­ing on a host of os­ten­si­ble al­lies.

The Ger­man pub­lic ra­dio sta­tion rbb-In­fora­dio re­ported that the BND eaves­dropped on the FBI, U.S. de­fense con­trac­tor Lock­heed Martin, French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius, Euro­pean Union diplo­mat Hansjoerg Haber — a Ger­man cit­i­zen — the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court and the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

A few days ear­lier, Ger­man news mag­a­zine Der Spiegel re­ported that the BND had pen­e­trated the U.S. State Depart­ment and the U.S. Depart­ment of the In­te­rior and its equiv­a­lent do­mes­tic agen­cies in Aus­tria, Croa­tia, Den­mark and Poland. The mag­a­zine also re­ported that the BND had spied on Amer­i­can, Bri­tish, French and a hand­ful of other di­plo­mats work­ing in Ger­many.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the BND mon­i­tored char­i­ties such as Care In­ter­na­tional, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross and Ox­fam, Der Spiegel claimed.

Mi­grants and ter­ror­ism

The ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris and the on­go­ing Euro­pean refugee cri­sis have only added to the po­lit­i­cal head­winds Mrs. Merkel is fac­ing, putting in­tense pres­sure on the chan­cel­lor on an­other front as Ger­many deals with a ris­ing na­tivist anti-Mus­lim move­ment.

Mrs. Merkel’s gov­ern­ment coali­tion part­ners in the Chris­tian So­cial Union have crit­i­cized the chan­cel­lor for ac­cept­ing refugees and called for stricter border con­trols to pre­vent Is­lamic rad­i­cals from en­ter­ing the coun­try.

Polls have found that more than half of Ger­man cit­i­zens dis­ap­prove of Mrs. Merkel’s pol­icy of wel­com­ing of refugees into the coun­try.

The sur­veil­lance scan­dal, mean­while, is un­likely to fade away.

Ger­man law­mak­ers are con­duct­ing a probe into claims that sur­faced in May that the Ger­man in­tel­li­gence ser­vice knew and as­sisted in spy­ing by the U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, in­clud­ing help­ing to track French and EU of­fi­cials. The BND also mis­tak­enly picked up calls by Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans over­see­ing the probe said they would ex­pand their in­quiry to look into the most re­cent rev­e­la­tions into the BND’s es­pi­onage.

“We have ob­vi­ously only dis­cov­ered the tip of the iceberg of slop­pi­ness, in­com­pe­tence and or­ga­ni­za­tional fail­ure,” Chris­tian Flisek, a law­maker with the So­cial Democrats, part of the gov­ern­ing coali­tion, said in an in­ter­view with the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung news­pa­per. “BND wit­nesses have fooled us on the com­mit­tee for years, say­ing that the BND works prop­erly and spies nei­ther on friends nor Ger­mans.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rev­e­la­tions that Ger­many’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices spied on the FBI, Amer­i­can de­fense con­trac­tors and Euro­pean al­lies have dented Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel author­ity.

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