Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fischer: Off the Hook?

Joschka Fischer, after nine hours' questioning at the inquiry into the disastrous Visa Scandal - which led to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants exploiting Fischer's relaxed visa regulations for entry into Germany - seems to have survived the process intact, so far.

Although he demonstratively admitted that he was responsible for the policy, he added enough riders to allow him to wriggle off the hook, should further damaging revelations emerge.

Fischer claims that he cannot recall having read the countless warnings from diplomats and politicians about the catastrophic consequences of his policy, which has been summed up with the tag In dubio per libertate (In doubt (decide) for freedom (to enter into Germany)). So it would seem either that his officials were stopping those warnings from reaching him, or that his memory is seriously at fault.

He also says that, should it come to light that he had received and read the warnings, he would have concluded that the dangers highlighted were the result not of his policy but of the incompetence or misunderstandings of the people dealing with the visa applications at the embassies.

As is usual in today's German politics the opposition were unable to land a knockout blow. When soundbites came, they were shouted by Fischer. Fischer is still repeating the mysterious claim, by the way, that his policy made the Orange Revolution in Ukraine possible. He must know something we don't, in that respect. In any case, Fischer was far wittier than his opponents, and successfully carried the attack to them on several occasions, as when he deplored the "scandalisation" of the affair by the opposition, and, in that case as in others, he got away with it too.

A golden opportunity to hold the German government to account for one of its biggest mistakes was missed yesterday. It is as though the complicity of all the parties in this system of government prevents the apt punishment and correction of such abuses. It may be that, as the inquiry continues, or as people digest the incredible arrogance with which Fischer tries, with apparent success, to shake off personal and institutional failings, a reaction of disgust will set in, and damage Fischer, but it looks unlikely.

For although Fischer is nominally to blame, that is merely an empty form of words, which no-one can expect to take seriously. A shaming result.

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