Joschka Fischer is Germany's foreign minister and if the opposition party CDU has anything to say, he won't be holding his job much longer. Fischer is under pressure in the so-called "visa affair". The New York Time sums it up:
The scandal came to light in February last year when a regional court in Germany found a Ukrainian-born man guilty of trafficking in people and of smuggling. The court found that laxness in issuing German visas in Ukraine - about 300,000 between 2000 and 2002 - had made it easier for the defendant, Anatoli Barg, to commit his offenses.Over time, it came to light that not only the embassy in Kiev but also German embassies in other (mostly former GUS) countries had been advised to "rather err on the side of freedom of travel" than applying stricter criteria when issuing visas. Ex-Ambassadors claim to have informed the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin about the apparent misuse of those visas by traffickers, criminals and drug dealers, but no action was taken. Fischer, as the head of the foreign office, is not only nominally responsible for any sloppiness that might have occured in his ministry, he also has to explain why he didn't react to any of the faxes and emails that diplomats said they have sent him.
So Fischer appeared at a hearing yesterday. The hearing was instigated by said opposition party, the CDU. They are desperately trying to gain ground by ousting Fischer. I think the visa affair itself was serious enough to pose a severe danger to Fischer, so the stakes were a little in favor of the CDU. Initially. But they made a crucial mistake. They allowed the hearing to be broadcasted live on national TV. Hans Leyendecker from the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
Ein charismatischer Politiker wie Fischer, der die Medien braucht wie die Luft zum Atmen, und der mit der Kamera vertrauter erscheint als mit den Regeln der Amtsführung, ist im Vorteil.That's putting it mildly. Fischer's appearance was an act. He talked into the cameras, to the people in his country, instead of the committee. He was witty, entertaining, and convincing. He even made fun of one of the members of the panel. Fischer is a brilliant rhetorician, he's very smart and he's fighting for his job. Why the CDU thought it was a good idea to allow the cameras is eluding me. Yes, he confessed to errors. He said he's taking full responsibility. He also says that on the whole, his visa politics are sound. The day after, the committee is sorting Fischer's statements he made in the course of a very long day. The hearing started at 9 am and finished up around 11 pm. The CDU still urges Fischer to resign. He won't hear anything of it. Over 6 Million Germans have watched the broadcasts of the various TV stations at least temporarily. What a stupid, stupid move. (Me? I voted for him. I think he's a good foreign minister. I also think he's arrogant and flighty and deserves a whack on the head. I can't stand the CDU, though.)
[A charismatic politician like Fischer, who needs the media like he needs air to breathe, and who seems more familiar with the camera than the rules of his office, has an advantage.]