Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Germany

Newsline: German Investigators Target Illicit Trade in Diplomatic Passports

Several Germans have managed to procure diplomatic passports from African countries, including former tennis star Boris Becker and figures with criminal histories. Now authorities are investigating a suspected network of intermediaries. Boris Becker joined the diplomatic corps of the Central African Republic at a good time. In the midst of the turmoil surrounding the bankruptcy proceedings the indebted tennis star was grappling with in London, he was surprisingly named the attaché for sports, culture and humanitarian affairs for the country. “Diplomatic honors for me!” Becker announced on Twitter on April 27, 2018. Among those congratulating the newly anointed diplomat included a certain Stephan Welk. He had worked his contacts for Becker and helped him receive the post. “Welcome to your diplomatic office,” Welk tweeted, accompanied by a photo of him and Becker together in front of the Central African Embassy in Brussels, smiling under the republic’s coat of arms, which features an elephant, a baobab tree and stars. Welk is no stranger to lightning-fast diplomatic careers. Online, the 51-year-old from the German state of Hesse presents himself as a “professor for international law and diplomacy” who assists African governments as a “special adviser.” He claims he has received multiple awards for his service, including the “Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Lion of Rwanda.” At the moment, though, Welk’s diplomatic services are unavailable. On August 30, he was taken into custody in Berlin, and two suspected accomplices were detained as well. (https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/investigators-target-trade-in-african-diplomatic-passports-a-1286643.html) The arrests are the product of a case being pursued by public prosecutors in Munich, who have been investigating six suspects over the course of several months. The officials are part of the anti-corruption division, and they are tying to shine light on a shadowy world. Several dubious businesspeople have succeeded in obtaining diplomatic passports and diplomatic service cards from impoverished countries. The recipients of the documents include well-known criminals who may have hoped that diplomatic immunity would protect them from the police or public prosecutors. It is thought that up to six-figure sums may have been paid for the documents. Documents seen by DER SPIEGEL show that several Germans with dubious resumes have been appointed as supposed advisers and diplomats by African countries. At the center of the scandal is the small African country of Guinea-Bissau.

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Newsline: China summons German ambassador to Beijing

The Chinese Ambassador to Germany said on Wednesday that a recent meeting between the German foreign minister and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong had sent “very negative signals.” Wu Ken confirmed that Beijing had officially summoned the German ambassador in protest, a fact that was also confirmed by Germany’s Foreign Ministry. “What happened now, I unfortunately have to say, will have negative consequences on bilateral relations and the Chinese side has to react,” said Wu. (https://www.dw.com/en/china-summons-german-ambassador-to-beijing/a-50386638)Wu claimed foreign forces had been involved in the ongoing protests in Hong Kong and reiterated his calls for foreign politicians to back off, saying: “China’s sovereignty and security must be respected. I therefore advise politicians against covering up violent crimes and meddling with Hong Kong’s and China’s internal affairs.” Wu also told reporters that Beijing had repeatedly asked Berlin to deny Wong entry to Germany.

Newsline: South Korea’s foreign ministry probes embezzlement suspicions involving official at embassy in Berlin

The foreign ministry is looking into suspicions that an official at South Korea’s Embassy in Germany embezzled official funds, diplomatic sources said Friday. The official, locally hired in 2009 as an administrative employee handling general finances, was accused of pocketing at least 700 million won ($584,260) from the mission’s coffers between 2013 and 2018, according to the sources. A local media outlet reported earlier that part of the allegedly misused money included budgetary funds that had been set aside for President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the European country in 2017. But this case is not related to such funds, an informed source said. (http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20190906000227) The official has been removed from his post. The ministry said it will take stern measures if the suspicions are confirmed. It is the latest in a string of misconduct and irregularities by officials at foreign missions. Two former ambassadors, to Vietnam and Malaysia, have been fired for accepting gifts in violation of anti-graft law and mistreatment of subordinates, while the ambassador to Mongolia has been referred to the central government’s disciplinary committee over alleged ties with a visa broker.

Newsline: Croatian diplomat in Germany suspended for ‘white Europe’ comments

A senior Berlin-based Croatian diplomat has been accused of damaging her country’s reputation after she wrote inflammatory Facebook posts alongside idyllic images of the Adriatic coast. “Just white Europeans as it used to be only 30 years ago in the whole of Europe,” wrote Elizabeta Madjarevic. The foreign minister said she was being recalled. The Facebook account of Ms Madjarevic, who is first secretary at the Berlin embassy, has now been deleted. But the diplomat’s views were exposed by Croatia’s Index.hr website, which said that in an 8 August post, under sun-drenched images of Croatia, she referred to “white Europeans” and a “pure and authentic Europe”. The comments were characteristic of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, it said. Initially she defended her posts, arguing that she had a right to speak as a private individual. “I am neither an official nor a politician, but an ordinary person who has the right to privacy,” she was quoted as writing on Facebook. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49405099) She also suggested her Facebook page had been hacked. However, Index.hr reported that in earlier Facebook posts she had written about the “Islamisation agenda” of Muslims and espoused homophobic views. In one post she linked LGBTQ to paedophilia. Ms Madjarevic was also outspoken about German attempts to integrate migrants into society, it said. Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman, who until recently was Croatia’s ambassador to Germany, rejected the diplomat’s claim that her account had been hacked and stressed that a diplomat was never a private individual. She was suspended pending a civil service tribunal, he said.

Newsline: Germany cannot shut down North Korean Embassy youth hostel

The German government wants to stop a hostel manager from paying rent to the North Korean Embassy. But despite a UN resolution forbidding rent payments, the City Hostel Berlin is still open for business. The German government still cannot find a way to shut down the City Hostel in the center of Berlin, even though the building is leased from the North Korean Embassy next door. According to a report earlier this week by Süddeutsche Zeitung, along with public broadcasters NDR and WDR, the embassy appears to be stalling attempts to cancel the lease contract with the German management company EGI GmbH, by failing to pay the necessary court fees. (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-cannot-shut-down-north-korean-embassy-youth-hostel/a-50057740) Newly uncovered information shows that the embassy, under pressure from the German Foreign Ministry, cancelled the contract with EGI in February 2018 and then filed an eviction notice at Berlin’s state court. But it then failed to provide the required advance on the court fees, which means that the large hostel, with some 435 beds in around 100 rooms, remains open for tourists hoping to see the German capital on a budget. The ministry’s pressure came in the wake of a United Nations resolution in November 2016, which banned member states from allowing North Korea from using embassy property for anything other than diplomatic activities.

Newsline: Journalists block US ambassador to Germany on Twitter

The United States ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell shared with his Twitter followers on Sunday that he had been blocked by prominent MSNBC and NBC News personalities Kristen Welker and Chuck Todd. “Chuck & Kristen love to ‘debate’ the issues,” Grenell said in a tweet with screen captures of the Twitter block warnings. Grenell, a long-time Republican, was previously the spokesman for the United Nations before being appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany by President Trump in 2018. Kristen Welker and Chuck Todd have both been openly critical of Trump and his administration in their posts, often remarking that the president espouses racist and homophobic views. (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/senior-msnbc-journalists-block-us-ambassador-to-germany-on-twitter) Grenell, the highest ranking openly gay official in the Republican Party, is often critical of perceived media bias on his Twitter account. Earlier this year, Grenell was tapped by the Trump administration to lead the effort to decriminalize homosexuality in nations where it is still illegal.

Newsline: German ambassador causes outrage visiting fascist Indian group

German ambassador to India, Walter Lindner, provoked outrage and an online petition calling for his recall to Germany, after he visited the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] organization, a right-wing, Hindu nationalist group. (https://www.jpost.com/International/German-ambassadors-visit-to-right-wing-Indian-group-causes-outrage-596871) The RSS is a controversial, extremist paramilitary-style volunteer organization connected to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. It shares fascist ideology supporting Hindu nationalism and anti-Christian an anti-Muslim beliefs. During World War II, RSS leader M.S Golwalkar openly admired Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and took inspiration from Adolf Hitler’s ideology of racial purity. In 1939, he wrote, “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.” He said it was “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” The RSS has been banned several times throughout its history, and has been incriminated in instigating anti-Christian and anti-Muslim violence in India, including involvement in the 1992 demolition of the 16th-century Babri mosque.