Merkel admits mistakes made over German spy boss promotion

In a highly unusual move, Angela Merkel on Monday apologized for the promotion of the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

Merkel admits mistakes made over German spy boss promotion
Angela Merkel at a Berlin press conference on Monday. Photo: DPA

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”.

Moving on 

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.”

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Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin