Germany ‘sees no reason’ to offer asylum to Snowden
An increasing number of German public figures are calling for Edward Snowden to be offered asylum in the country, but Berlin maintains that the conditions for granting the whistleblower refuge remain unfulfilled, EurActiv Germany reports.
More than 50 public figures have asked Berlin to step up its support of the whistleblower in the new edition of Der Spiegel magazine, but the German government maintains its position. Fears over harming the German-American relationship continue to raise concerns in Berlin.
“There is no reason to offer asylum to Edward Snowden. He is not a person under political persecution,” said German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich in a statement to the daily Münchner Merkur.
“Apart from that, Snowden could only apply for asylum in Germany if he was already in the country," he said.
The German government had reviewed the case of the former contractor of the National Security Agency (NSA) in July. "At that time, the Foreign Office and Federal Ministry of the Interior came to the mutual decision that the conditions for admission had not been fulfilled,” Friedrich said.
The German government would much rather question Snowden in Russia, he added. In the same breath, the interior minister recalled his own experience as a member of the investigation team sent to question former arms lobbyist Karl-Heinz Schreiber in Canada.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also expressed opposition to granting Snowden asylum in Germany. It is very important to ensure that German-American relations do not suffer lasting damage, Westerwelle told Spiegel Online.
The parliamentary control committee will offer new advice on Wednesday on the NSA affair. At that time, the directors of Germany’s two main intelligence-gathering organisations, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND), Hans-Georg Maaßen and Gerhard Schindler, are expected to report on the results of their visit to the United States.
This week, the two intelligence directors are scheduled to talk with NSA officials in Washington, amidst allegations that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone was tapped. In addition, German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Ströbele intends to speak about his meeting with Snowden in Russia.
Chairman of the Greens Jürgen Trittin supported asylum for Snowden in a statement on Monday. “Edward Snowden’s disclosures have revealed a massive wiretapping scandal. He is anything but a criminal and has earned secure residence in Germany,” Trittin told Spiegel Online.
Bernd Riexinger, head of the German Left Party, also backed granting Snowden asylum. Riexinger advocates forcing the German government, by means of a parliamentary resolution, to speak to Snowden and to offer him asylum.
“There is a feasible, legal way to bring Snowden to Germany while protecting him from extradition to the Americans,” Riexinger told the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. “But this government is apparently lacking the political will.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against discord in the German-American relationship. “The transatlantic alliance remains of the utmost importance for Germans”, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said on Monday in Berlin. “Hardly any country has benefited from this partnership, this friendship, as Germany has. It is of the utmost importance. We will act in the spirit of the alliance. This is what we have done in the past and this will guide all of the chancellor’s decisions in the future.”
The chancellor is dedicated to protecting the data and privacy of German citizens against illegal access. “For this reason, she is working towards creating new trust with the United States and establishing clear agreements as a basis for future cooperation”, Seibert added.
While the Greens and the Left Party are pushing for safe passage and a residence permit for Snowden in Germany, voices from the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats gain intensity, insisting Snowden must be questioned under asylum in Moscow.
An extradition agreement exists between the US and Germany, which would require that Snowden be arrested on German soil.
Parliamentary Secretary for the SPD faction Thomas Oppermann said, if it is possible to question Snowden in Moscow, then “it should be done quickly”. Still, Snowden’s interrogation in Germany is not out of the question, the parliamentary secretary added. A humanitarian solution for the whistleblower must be found and German-American relations must remain intact, Oppermann said on the German television network ARD Sunday evening.
Barack Obama knew his intelligence services were eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel as long ago as 2010, according to a report published on 27 October by a German newspaper.
At the 24-25 October EU summit, Merkel demanded that the United States strike a "no-spying" agreement with Berlin and Paris by the end of the year, saying alleged espionage against two of Washington's closest EU allies had to be stopped.
Merkel said she wanted action from US President Barack Obama, not just apologetic words following revelations that the US National Security Agency had accessed tens of thousands of French phone records and monitored Merkel's private mobile phone.
Germany and France will seek a "mutual understanding" with the United States on cooperation between their intelligence agencies, and other EU member states could eventually take part.
French President François Hollande expressed his concerns that companies were also spied.