Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Germany

Newsline: Lawyer for German embassy in Ankara arrested

Turkish authorities took the lawyer into custody, Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed. The man, from Turkey, had been assisting the embassy in Ankara by looking into the cases of Turkish citizens seeking asylum in Germany, according to news magazine Der Spiegel, which first broke the story. A German diplomatic source told Agence France-Presse that the lawyer had provided “internationally customary and, in our view, indisputably acceptable support.” (https://www.dw.com/en/lawyer-for-german-embassy-in-ankara-arrested/a-51341528) “His detention is incomprehensible to us,” they added. The diplomatic source said Germany was “intensively engaging to clear up the allegations and free him from custody.” The lawyer, who Der Spiegel says has been accused of espionage, cannot receive consular assistance from Germany because he is a Turkish citizen.

Newsline: German embassy worker allegedly sold visas to Lebanese clan

German authorities are looking for a former embassy worker who allegedly sold visa documents to members of a Lebanese clan. The clan then used the documents to smuggle Syrian refugees into Germany, according to a report. A Lebanese man who used to work at the German embassy in Beirut is wanted by authorities over alleged “irregularities” involving visa documents, according to a report by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “We are working closely with the relevant criminal investigative authorities in this case,” the German Foreign Office told the paper, adding that the suspect no longer works at the embassy. (https://www.dw.com/en/german-embassy-worker-allegedly-sold-visas-to-lebanese-clan-report/a-51011980) The man reportedly worked in the embassy’s visa department until 2017 and is believed to have taken so-called “visa stickers” — papers that are inserted into passports and are necessary to travel to Germany.

Newsline: Eritrea summons German ambassador

The Eritrean foreign ministry summoned Germany’s ambassador to its offices earlier this week over DW’s reporting on the country. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel on Monday claimed that DW — Germany’s state-owned international broadcaster — was engaged in an “unbridled smear campaign” against Eritrea. In its response, the German Foreign Ministry described the broadcaster as “an independent media outlet that works to high journalistic standards.” “Press freedom is a valuable asset and prerequisite for a functioning democracy,” the ministry, which gave no further details about the ambassador’s meeting, said in a statement on Wednesday. (https://www.dw.com/en/eritrea-summons-german-ambassador-over-dw-coverage/a-50955944) DW has not issued a formal response on the matter.

Newsline: US Embassy in Germany scales back spending amid diplomatic tensions

The U.S. Embassy in Germany has scaled back its spending, the ambassador said Tuesday, at a time of cooling diplomatic relations between the two countries. The mission came in $14 million under its budget for 2019, Ambassador Richard Grenell announced in a statement. “I believe strongly that American taxpayers expect efficiency and frugality from overseas missions,” he said, adding that the embassy had come in $6 million under its budget for 2018 and has not asked for any further budget allocation through 2021. (https://www.politico.eu/article/us-embassy-germany-scales-back-spending-diplomatic-tensions/) Previous annual budgets for U.S. representation in Germany have been estimated at around $130 million. A spokesperson for the U.S. mission in Berlin said the 2019 budget was $153 million. The announcement comes as relations between the U.S. and Germany have become strained over issues ranging from trade policy to defense spending. U.S. President Donald Trump has been a vociferous critic of Germany’s failure to meet the 2 percent NATO spending target and has threatened to slap tariffs on German cars. The embassy in Berlin, which manages a network of diplomatic outposts in Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich, insists it can still carry out its functions despite the frugal spending.

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.

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.