Opposition keep up pressureon Fischer over visa row

15th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

15 February 2005, BERLIN - Opposition attacks on German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer focussed on Tuesday on the length of time it took Fischer to shut a loophole in the supply of visas. Criticised for a three-year phase when traffickers could readily obtain tourists visas from the German embassy in Kiev, Fischer admitted on Monday night on national television to making mistakes. "I accept that mistakes were made. They were mistakes by the ministry or by me as minister. That applies to me," he said on A

15 February 2005

BERLIN - Opposition attacks on German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer focussed on Tuesday on the length of time it took Fischer to shut a loophole in the supply of visas.

Criticised for a three-year phase when traffickers could readily obtain tourists visas from the German embassy in Kiev, Fischer admitted on Monday night on national television to making mistakes.

"I accept that mistakes were made. They were mistakes by the ministry or by me as minister. That applies to me," he said on ARD television, hours after telling fellow Greens he was sorry and saying in a statement that he took responsibility for Foreign Office errors.

With anti-immigrant feeling growing in Germany, the opposition has alleged incompetence. Embassies worldwide began issuing visas with little vetting from 3 March, 2000. Fischer ordered the practise stopped on March 28, 2003, a Foreign Office spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Christian Democrat (CDU) whip in the Bundestag parliament, Volker Kauder, said Fischer's statement was the "pinnacle of triviality" and led to more new questions than it answered.

He said Fischer would be summoned soon before a Bundestag commission of inquiry that has already convened and it was possible Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would be summoned as well.

The Rheinische Post newspaper quoted Tuesday from an internal memo dated 19 March  2003, in which Fischer was told of a huge upsurge of visas for citizens of the former Soviet states and the finding that people traffickers were abusing the rules.

Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber called Tuesday for Fischer to say precisely when he learned of the problems. Fischer had either told an untruth or had failed to read important files, said Stoiber, who was the Christian parties' last candidate for chancellor.

Staff at the German embassy in Kiev were sacked after the mission was found to be handing out 20,000 tourist visas a month. Many recipients are believed to have moved to the European Union to work. Prostitution rings allegedly used the loophole to supply brothels.

DPA

Subject: German news

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