Thursday, March 31, 2005

Germany's Open Secret

The German government is muddying the waters regarding its role in the disastrous, Green Party-led "tourist visa" legislation. (This legislation, in the face of reiterated warnings from diplomats, politicans and police, allowed hundreds of thousands of illegal eastern European immigrants into Europe - see End of the Line, Net Closes In, and Scandal Enmeshes Fischer.)

The government has declared documents relating to the scandal as Verschlussache - "classified matter", which is another way of saying "state secrets".

This classification means the documents cannot be quoted in the inquiry into the scandal, which is starting to put serious pressure on the legislation's chief architect: Joschka Fischer.

Fischer, Germany's peacenik, policeman-beating Foreign Minister, is keeping schtum on the matter for as long as he decently can. Indeed, the timing of his appearance to justify himself to the inquiry is in itself a matter of controversy. The popular, portly Foreign Minister is keen to postpone it until after the important regional elections in Nordrhein-Westphalen on May 22, an election whose outcome this scandal will surely influence, to the disadvantage of the ruling Social Democrat-Green Party government.

The documents include such highly secret items as articles printed in newspapers, leaflets published by the Foreign Ministry and stuff which has appeared on the internet. The CIA has been known to base some of its conclusions on such material. Even so, it's not normally subject to state restrictions. So what's behind this bizarre secrecy?

On the one hand, it is simple, reflex obstructionism of the sort that makes all bureaucrats everywhere the mortal enemies of transparency and democracy.

On the other, it is a clear giveaway that the German government has done something very wrong and wants to hide it.

As so often, it is the manic cover-up, as opposed to the corruption and incompetence itself, which emits the clearest possible signal that something is badly wrong with the current German government. When we first wrote of this matter about two months ago, it looked as though Fischer, and his awful government, might survive the scandal. That looks a lot less likely now.

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