Austria calls on Germany to clarify spying allegations

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have called on Germany to explain new allegations of spying by the German secret service BND
AFP

Vienna (AFP) – Austria called on Germany Saturday to clarify new allegations that its secret service systematically spied on politicians, international organisations and companies on Austrian territory, as reported by two national newspapers. 

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen called for “full clarification” from the German authorities, while Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz urged Berlin to “cooperate properly” in shedding light on newspaper reports regarding the past activities of the federal intelligence service, the BND. 

According to the Saturday edition of the Austrian daily Standard, a long list of targets had been allegedly spied upon by the BND between 1999 and 2006, including 2,000 landline and mobile telephone numbers, faxes and email addresses of ministries, international organisations, embassies and companies operating in Austria. 

The weekly newspaper, Profil, carried the same information. 

“Spying between countries that are friends is not only undesirable, but also unacceptable,” Van der Bellen told a specially convened news conference with Kurz. 

Such actions could weigh on trust between the two countries in the long term, Van der Bellen said, while Kurz noted that Germany was “an important partner.” 

Both insisted that Germany provide assurances that such activities had ceased and said that the magnitude of the spying, as reported by the newspapers, was “enormous”. 

Among the international organisations that were reportedly targeted by the German spy service were the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), all based in Vienna. 

In Germany, the head of the parliamentary control committee, Armin Schuster, said it would have to be determined whether the newspapers’ allegations were “new or whether they were part of the allegations already made back in 2015.” 

The committee would hold a special meeting to examine the matter next week, he said. 

In 2015, German media reports alleged that the BND systematically spied on Germany’s allies and various organisations such as the Red Cross, both on its own account, as well as for the US National Security Agency (NSA). 

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