Spying on neighbours
The government in Vienna is voicing outrage after it has emerged that Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, spied on Austrian institutions. According to media reports among other things communications between ministers and companies were subject to systematic surveillance between 1999 and 2006. Commentators note the convenient timing of the scandal.
A precedent against German dominance
For political scientist Heorhij Kukhaleishvili the big question in the Austrian-German spying scandal is why it is being made public now, he writes on Portal 112.ua:
“The Austrians' resolve, who have voiced their protest against Germany for events that took place twelve years ago, has created a model: the leaders of other European states like Poland, Hungary or Italy who also don't agree with Merkel's 'open door' policy can now look for traces of the German intelligence services having spied on them too. Austria has exposed Germany as a state that forces its will on other countries - EU member states - and takes the liberty of carrying out non-transparent operations in order to increase its influence over their domestic and foreign policies.”
A good opportunity for Vienna
The scandal over German espionage in Austria is a godsend for the government in Vienna, Der Standard agrees:
“On the one hand it's kicked up such a fuss that it's diverted attention from the highly unpleasant debate about the twelve-hour day [a proposed law allowing voluntary shifts of up to 12 hours starting January 2019]. On the other hand one must also ask how much the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism knew about what our German friends were getting up to. Either it knew nothing, in which case it's not worth the money and effort it costs, or it knew more than it's admitted so far. In both cases the agency's director Peter Gridling - the very man who FPÖ Interior Minister Herbert Kickl is so keen to get rid of for very different reasons - must provide an explanation.”