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Ex-defence chief 'almost quit' over drones

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Ex-defence chief 'almost quit' over drones
De Maizière's torchlit send off. Photo: DPA
16:24 CET+01:00
Outgoing Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière said he considered resigning over a botched drone deal last year but the soldiers persuaded him not to. He also hit out at Germany's allies in a leaving ceremony on Wednesday night.

Speaking at a ceremony held on Wednesday night to mark his departure from the role, ex-Defence Minister Thomas de Maizère admitted the drone scandal had nearly driven him from office.

"The soldiers - I'm disclosing a secret here - prevented me from stepping down," said the CDU politician, who ended a three-year spell at the Defence Ministry in December to return to his former post as Interior Minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's new cabinet.

He came under immense pressure last summer over to what extent, and at what point, he knew that the Euro Hawk drone project was destined to fail to meet legal and technical standards.

The Euro Hawk - a US-built prestige project for the German army and NATO - was cancelled in May 2013 after several years of development and close to half a billion euros of investment.

"Of course lots of things aren't right in the Bundeswehr, not only in the field of armaments," said de Maizère in his speech. "That is normal for institution of this size."

He also had strong words for Germany's allies France and Britain, warning them not to meddle in German foreign policy decisions.

"Germany doesn't need instructions from anyone in Europe about the nature and extent of our international engagements - not even from France or Britain... Germany keeps its obligations, even if the domestic politics is difficult,” he said.

The lantern-lit leaving ceremony is traditional for all outgoing defence ministers, chancellors and presidents, who get to choose a song to be played.

De Maizère chose 1980s hit "Live is Life," by Austrian pop-rock group Opus.  

His predecessor Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg left the post to the sound of "Smoke on the Water," whereas Frank Sinatra's "My Way" accompanied ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's emotional send-off, Spiegel reported.

READ MORE: Germany halts purchase of armed drones

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