Skip to comments.German Foreign Minister to Testify to Parliament in Visa Scandal (crime figures & prostitutes)
Posted on 02/17/2005 5:46:18 AM PST by Libloather
German Foreign Minister to Testify to Parliament in Visa Scandal
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
Published: February 16, 2005
BERLIN, Feb. 15 - Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, facing a widening scandal involving visas for Ukrainian crime figures and prostitutes, said Tuesday that he would testify before a special parliamentary commission investigating the matter, but he refused to make any public comments.
Mr. Fischer, a member of the leftist Green Party and by a considerable margin Germany's most popular political figure, has been confronting what commentators here are calling the party's worst political scandal in the six years it has been part of the so-called Red-Green governing coalition.
The Greens, through Mr. Fischer, are accused not just of allowing an influx of criminals and prostitutes but also of failing to stop the abuses after learning of them.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Fischer accepted what he called "political responsibility" for mistakes that may have been made by German consulates in Ukraine, which is said to have issued thousands of visas to criminals, members of people-trafficking gangs and prostitution rings from 2000 to 2002.
But his comment provoked a largely critical response on Tuesday, with one newspaper in particular, Rheinische Post, citing a Foreign Ministry document that, the newspaper said, showed that Mr. Fischer knew about the problem a year earlier than he has acknowledged.
"To what extent was Green ideological blindness really responsible for damaging German interests because it simply ignored countless warnings?" asked Die Welt, a conservative paper. "And how much personal influence does the foreign minister have to admit to?"
The scandal arose about three weeks ago when opposition politicians, who are preparing for a regional election on Sunday in Schleswig-Holstein, began publicizing the visa reports and blaming the center-left government for looking the other way as criminals and prostitutes got tourist visas for Germany.
The scandal took its first victim on Friday when Ludger Volmer was forced to step down as the Green Party's foreign affairs spokesman. Mr. Volmer, who was then a deputy foreign minister, signed the regulations that eased visa restrictions for Ukrainians in 2000.
But since then opposition leaders, supported by some of the press, have continued pressing for Mr. Fischer to disclose exactly when he first learned of the abuses and when he took measures to stop them.
"The public has a right to know exactly what role the minister responsible played in the arrival of organized criminals from Eastern Europe," said Edmund Stoiber, the conservative leader of Bavaria. He stopped short of demanding that Mr. Fischer resign, but other opposition leaders have said he should step down.
Mr. Fischer has defended himself in part by saying the visa regulations for Ukraine were put in place by the conservatives when they controlled the government before 1998.
"It's not as if criminal people-trafficking began under Red-Green," Mr. Fischer said as the scandal brewed earlier. "It's not as if forced prostitution began with Red-Green. It's not as if there were not considerable pressure from the previous government."
Mr. Fischer's spokesman, Walter Lindner, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the affair had been blown out of proportion. "If there has been any abuse of the system, it has been stopped," he said. "And abuses also took place under the former government. With three million visas every year, there's no guarantee that we can stop misuse altogether."
That should've been in the headline...
However this incident isn't going to bring Fischer down, IMHO.
Some perspective for this opinion.
As a point of reference, let's say 1990, to obtain a visa for Germany you would have needed a German citizen to vouch for you and to assume all financial obligations should you incur medical expenses or legal expenses, especialy legal expenses incurred by your refusal to leave after your visa expired. You would have also needed to make a personal appearance at the German embassy in your native country.
Thw Kohl government instituted two procedural changes in the mid-90's. Firstly, the Reisebueroverfahren, which allowed visa applicants to undertake the process through travel agencies, and Secondly, the Reiseschutzpass which substituted an insurance policy underwritten through ADAC, at that time, for a German citizen as a Guarantor.
At some time after the Schroeder government took over 1n 1998, the German embassies were instructed to, regarding visa applications, to err on the side of leniency when awarding avisa in questionable cases. This was the Volmer-Edict (Volmer-Erlass).
Volmer, in defense of this, says that upon his taking office, he was so besieged with constituents complaining of unnecessary red tape in the visa process, that he promised to undertake counter-measures.
As as result, German embassies in some of the former Russian satellites saw major increases in visa applications. The Reiseschutzpass was sold on the black market to persons who couldn't afford it, and who had to re-pay the costs to the coyotes once they obtained work in the EU.
The predispostion of these policies to abuse is obvious. The German institution of lenient visa policies also affected the rest of the European signees of the Schengener Agreement.
The German Foreign Affairs Office suspended the Reisebueroverfahren in 2001, and the Reiseschutzpass in 2003.
The case came into public scrutiny late last year after testimony in a trial, I believe.
It can be said, IMHO, that the policy was dumb, and that Fischer, after dumping his underlings to the wolves, has consistently and impressively lied his rear-end off about what he knew and when he knew it.
Freedom of Dumbness and the ability to lie one's @ss off are quintessential tools of the German politician, however, and are probably included in the definition of Politician if you looked it up in Duden.
The entire scandal will be chalked up to a partisan witchhunt, and Fischer will receive a bump in his cult status popularity, given the proclivities of the German media in running interference for the German government.
That's my take on it.
I do hope I'm wrong on this one, though.
Fischer will likely survive this mess...but he won't be the golden boy of the green party any longer. My guess is that he will step down as the next election approaches or shortly after that. My observations of the Russians in Germany...there is a huge mafia presence. The German cops know this...but I think it really has overwhelmed them as to the growth and spread. Even local politicans can't believe the amount of crime that comes attached to the Russian/Ukraine communities. My guess is that there are at least 5,000 Russian hookers in Germany...and none of them have visas. Millions of Euros are going back into Moscow each week. Its a black market that doesn't slow down.
Yeah, so do I, although I'm afraid he'll weasel out of this affair again.
BTW, in "Die Zeit" is another interesting editorial on this topic: Über die grüne Grenze.