The former head of Germany‘s domestic intelligence agency has criticised the country’s leader Angela Merkel over her immigration policies, saying that they are ‘fatal’ and leading the country into a decline.
Hans-Georg Maassen previously ran the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany for six years before being forced out in 2018 after publicly contradicting the chancellor’s claims that foreigners had been ‘hunted’ in the city of Chemnitz during a bout of unrest.
The 58-year-old’s remarks at the time, which questioned evidence of such ‘hunts’, nearly led to a break-up of the ruling party.
Hans-Georg Maassen (pictured) made the claims and is now standing to become an MP for Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in southern Thuringia.
He went on to cause further controversy in his departure speech from office, with a copy of it being leaked to the public in early November 2018.
In the speech, he presented himself as a victim to the conspiracy of ‘radical left-wing’ forces in German government, which he claimed was due to his criticism of the government’s migration polices.
As a result, he was placed in early retirement.
But, he is making a return to government, and is now standing to become an MP for Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in southern Thuringia.
He is standing against Frank Ullrich, 63, a popular figure who won an Olympic gold medal in the biathlon for east Germany, who is representing the Social Democrats.
In an interview with The Times, Mr Maassen said he was building an alliance within the party with the end goal of picking apart the chancellor’s legacy.
The German chancellor is set to step down in autumn after 16 years in power, and is currently in the midst of making a series of farewell trips.
Yesterday, Mrs Merkel, 66, had her final official audience with the Queen following talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Chequers.
It was the second time they have met within a few weeks, after they were seen together at the G7 summit in Cornwall last month.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Queen were pictured together as Mrs Merkel embarks on visits ahead of her departure in August
‘The CDU has clearly taken a lot of damage over the past 20 years,’ Mr Massen said. ‘It’s become a club for electing the chancellor under the slogan ‘We want Merkel re-elected’, but the actual political and programmatic substance is gone.’
The elections later this year will be watched closely in Germany for signs of how Mrs Merkel’s party will evolve when she steps back.
Mr Massen added that the country is ‘falling far below [its] potential’.
‘I have the impression that many people have made their peace with the fact that we are declining ever further politically and economically,’ he said.
He also criticised Mrs Merkel’s approach to immigration, and her decision to allow around 1.2m migrants into the country in 2015.
More than one million people applied for asylum in Germany for the first time in 2015-2016 during a pivotal moment in Mrs Merkel’s tenure.
Mrs Merkel, 66, is due to step down as German Chancellor after 16 years as leader
But the debate around migration became deeply divisive, eating into public trust in Merkel and even leading to a far-right party – the AfD – gaining a meaningful presence in parliament for the first time since the Nazi regime.
Headline-grabbing events, such as mass sexual assaults committed against women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015/2016 and a Berlin Christmas market attack in December 2016, also led to a rise in anger directed at migrants.
Last year, she told the annual summer press conference in Berlin that she would ‘make essentially the same decisions’ if facing the crisis again.
‘When people are standing at the German-Austrian border or the Hungarian-Austrian border, they have to be treated like human beings,’ she said.
But, Mr Maassen told the Times that: ‘[Germans] simply cannot understand why ever more people are coming into this country even though they obviously have no right to asylum; why we aren’t deporting them and why politicians just put up with the fact that the people here are falling victim to these migrants.’
Mrs Merkel attended a joint news conference with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Chequers
Some members of the CDU still consider Mr Maassen to be a controversial figure, and have called for his expulsion from the party, alleging he is too close to the far right.
Germans will head to the polls on Sunday 26 September to elect a new Bundestag.