Visa affair

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The cases of abuse in the issuing of visas in various German embassies and consulates in the course of the revision of the visa issuing practice by the red-green government are referred to as the visa affair . In a circular issued - mostly as "Volmer" or "Fischer-adoption" referred to - had the Foreign Office in 2000 foreign representatives instructed to proceed in the distribution of Visa bureaucratic. The core passage of the decree reads: “Not every doubt about the willingness to return , but only the sufficient probability of the unwillingness to return justifies the refusal of a visitor visa. If, after dutiful consideration and overall assessment of the individual case, the actual circumstances that speak for and against the issuing of a visit visa are balanced, the following applies: in dubio pro libertate - in case of doubt, for (travel) freedom. ”The decree issued in October 2004 was withdrawn by the red-green coalition itself, led to a considerable increase in the issuance of visas , especially in the German embassy in Kiev .

At the request of the CDU / CSU , the German Bundestag set up a committee of inquiry at the end of 2004 to clarify who was responsible for the tens of thousands of visas obtained by fraud between 1999 and 2002. While the Union and FDP hold the Foreign Office's visa policy responsible, the Red-Green coalition refers to the workings of criminal networks.

However, the withdrawal of the decree shows that the provisions were later examined more critically even in government circles. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer assumed political responsibility for what was going on in diplomatic missions when he was interrogated in the spring and admitted that at least two decrees from his ministry had facilitated the abuse of visa regulations. However, he did not see this as a reason for resignation.

The interview with witnesses in the Visa Inquiry Committee was broadcast live on television for the first time in parliamentary history.

On June 2, 2005, the red-green majority ended the taking of evidence against the declared will of the opposition in the committee, pointing out that there was not enough time for procedural reasons. In accordance with Section 33 (3) of the Investigation Committee Act (PUAG), the committee must prepare a status report if it is foreseeable that it will not be able to complete its investigation before the end of the electoral term. Because of the planned early election of the Bundestag, this situation had arisen in the opinion of the governing parties. The CDU / CSU and FDP called the Federal Constitutional Court about the breaking off of the taking of evidence because they saw their minority rights violated. The second Karlsruhe Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court ordered in an urgent decision that the hearing of witnesses had to continue at least until the Bundestag was actually dissolved. With the unanimous decision of the constitutional judges, which strengthens minority rights in investigative committees, the opposition prevailed with its legal opinion. Interior Minister Otto Schily was heard in the committee on July 15, 2005. The meeting lasted from 9 a.m. until shortly after midnight and began with a five-hour and 16-minute opening speech by the Minister of the Interior, which contained detailed and fundamental explanations on visa and immigration law and was published on the Internet by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.


The dispute over the practice of issuing visas initially began within the government. Interior Minister Schily had sent a protest letter to the Foreign Minister responsible for the decree in March 2000, in which he complained that his house was not involved, not even informed. He (Schily) will bring that up in the cabinet. The dispute was shaped both procedurally and in terms of content. The Ministry of the Interior assessed the decree as partially illegal.

From February 2004, the Schröder government's visa issuing practice was discussed in the wider public . At that time, the irregular conditions around the premises of the German representation in Kiev were largely known. Opposition politicians repeatedly criticized this, which was also expressed in polemical form in parliament:

The Cologne Regional Court had also sentenced a defendant to five years in prison for “gang-like smuggling” and, surprisingly, also criticized official bodies with harsh words: The Foreign Ministry had encouraged the crimes through “serious misconduct” and the visa waiver was a “cold coup against them existing legal situation ". The regional court also complained that his work had been hindered as planned by the Foreign Office, among other things. a. through coordinated statements. According to the verdict, these grounds for mitigating the sentence are not based on evidence taken by the regional court on the visa practice itself, but on statements made by the convicted defendant and on press reports.

The issue was not pursued by the opposition in 2004. However, in close proximity to the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia , a parliamentary committee of inquiry was requested and, due to the existing minority quorum, was also set up by a quarter of the members of the Bundestag.

From January 2005, the committee of inquiry set up by the Union dealt with the practice of issuing visas, although the decree itself - due to the changed global security situation - had largely been suspended from autumn 2004.

Fischer and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen as well as some media argued that the conservative previous government had already proposed easing the entry into Germany from Eastern Europe and that the CDU / CSU also repeatedly asked for entry - for business people from Ukraine, for example - to facilitate. Such demands have also come from the parliamentary area (members of the Bundestag) and from the economy. Requests made to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag would have suggested action also for human reasons. Fifteen years after the fall of the iron curtain , it would have been time to soften the isolation from Eastern European countries.

The Greens accused the CDU / CSU of conducting a defamation campaign with the committee of inquiry alone before the state elections in order to harm them, Fischer and the federal government in favor of the immigration law. Joschka Fischer has now publicly admitted mistakes. He did not have the subject "on the radar" and therefore did not react quickly and comprehensively enough.

Conversely, the Greens were accused of trivializing the grievances and of reacting improperly to the criticism.

A first preliminary examination by the EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini showed that the March 2000 decree violated the Schengen Agreement and thus European law in part . Neither the applicant's financial resources nor their willingness to return had been adequately examined.

A legal assessment of the decree of State Secretary Chrobog of October 26, 2004, which replaced the earlier instruction, is not available, as the assessment would have to be approved by the college of all commissioners.



Due to the high number of applicants and the lack of staff at the consulates and embassies, long queues formed in front of the embassy in Kiev in previous years . The BGS ensured order inside the embassy, while outside the Ukrainian security forces. Applicants reported that these security guards had asked them to pay in order to be safe. They asked for between 100 and 500  marks depending on the place in the queue. Over the years, this developed into a real "queue mafia". Before the eyes of the powerless members of the embassy, ​​organized gangs decided who could take a step or two in the queue in front of the visa section for 50 euros, according to Fritz Grützmacher (retired visa official).

A journalist found that the average processing time for visas issued in Ukraine may have been just a few minutes.

In 1999 the German Embassy in Kiev (Ukraine) issued around 150,000 three-month entry visas. In 2000 (approx. 210,000), 2001 (approx. 300,000) and 2002 (approx. 230,000) there was a significantly increased number of visa issues in Kiev.


In March 2000 the so-called Volmer Decree came into force. A refusal should no longer be made if there is any doubt about the applicant's willingness to return . If the other circumstances for or against doubts about a willingness to return necessary for the issuance of a visa were balanced, the spirit of the new regulation should decide in favor of freedom of travel. The reference "In dubio pro libertate - In case of doubt for freedom of travel" was to be understood as an illustration. That was the core of the regulation that Ambassador a. D. Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz described it as “converting green ideology into practical politics”.

According to Volmer, the decree was motivated by grievances, for example the refusal of a visa for a patient who had to undergo surgery on a brain tumor in Germany. In the reports of the newspapers there was talk of “greater goodwill” ( FAZ ) or “more liberal visa issuance” ( Der Tagesspiegel ) .

Even before the decree, under the Helmut Kohl government, the so-called travel agency procedure had been set up as an exception procedure under the Schengen Agreement . This made it possible to apply for a visa through a travel agency. This is how the queue mafia should be fought. However, there were also some cases of abuse in this process. The managing director of a Neu-Ulm travel agency was sentenced to several years in prison after it was proven that he had applied for group trips with bogus programs and passed them on to the German embassy in Kiev in a mass process; The court also found that those who had entered immediately went into hiding, traveled on to other countries or engaged in prostitution. Both the Federal Border Police (BGS) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) later opposed this visa-issuing procedure.

On March 9, 2000, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily wrote to Joschka Fischer that he saw the Volmer Decree in contradiction to the Aliens Act and the Schengen Agreement . In the summer of 2000, other interior ministers also expressed concern, but the concerns were resolved by the Foreign Office in a meeting with the ministers, which is why Interior Minister Schily did not intervene any further. Several warnings from former interior ministers to the Foreign Office and former foreign ministers Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Klaus Kinkel were ignored by them even then.


On May 2, 2001, the Foreign Office approved the travel protection passport of Reiseschutz AG of the private entrepreneur Heinz Kübler. The order was issued to the diplomatic missions abroad to accept this, along with others, as proof of creditworthiness . This travel insurance gave the host the opportunity to take out insurance against possible risks of the traveler (e.g. illness, costs for the return journey). Normally the inviting person had to vouch for such risks . Since she was often unable to do this, the idea of ​​insurance was taken up. The Allianz AG joined this travel protection passport as an insurance company in the background (travel insurance were not sold by Allianz AG, but by the travel insurance AG. Allianz AG had only the products liability and travel insurance travel protection AG provided. The forwarding of these products under travel insurance was solely in the hands of Reiseschutz AG.).

The Federal Criminal Police Office informed the Ministry of the Interior about the supposedly large role that travel insurance is said to have played in the smuggling of people. As a result, the Federal Foreign Office no longer accepted this travel protection pass from around September 2002. It is assumed that around 35,000 pieces have been sold in Ukraine by then.

One such travel insurance was the ADAC Carnet de Touriste , which had been approved since 1995 and was sold between 120,000 and 150,000 times. There were also two other providers of such travel insurance (ITRES GmbH and HanseMerkur-Reiseversicherung AG) with lower sales figures. Since October 2003, travel insurance policies are no longer accepted as proof of creditworthiness .

In July 2001 the Federal Foreign Office declared the travel agency procedure to be ended on October 1, 2001. In future, every applicant would have to visit the visa office in person again.

In a case against Anatoli B. the Cologne criminal chamber said that the Volmer decree, the travel agency proceedings and the travel protection passports had led to mass smuggling of people.

2002 to 2004

As of January 29, 2002, travel insurance policies could also be sold directly abroad by decree of the Foreign Office. The situation in front of the representation in Kiev came to a head. Air vendors offer travel insurance for $ 1,000  .

On February 8, 2002, the ambassador in Kiev reported that the embassy was being "overrun" by applicants with travel protection passports.

From April 2003 travel insurance was no longer recognized and on October 28, 2004 the Volmer Decree was revised. The creditworthiness of an invitee must be checked again.

The Vostok report was a report by officials of the Federal Criminal Police Office from the end of 2003, which documents the smuggling of smuggling (forced prostitution, illegal work, smuggling), especially in connection with the so-called travel protection passports. The travel protection passports made it easier to obtain the visas required for citizens of some Eastern European countries.

Irregularities in the
issuing of visas
in Kosovo The visa affair was not limited to Ukraine. In 2003, tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians are said to have been given documents without thorough examination (according to a confidential internal inspection report by the German Foreign Office). During an audit of the Pristina Liaison Office in mid-July 2004, three officers found serious deficiencies.

Until the end of 2003, the branch office of the Tirana embassy had “been extremely liberal in awarding contracts”. The applicant's documents were therefore “hardly checked” and “in some cases visas were even issued when the requirements were clearly not met”.

In many cases the applicant was granted a visa even though the creditworthiness of the “inviting person” was not checked at all in Germany. Between February 2003 and June 2004, the German representation in Pristina issued more than 50,000 visas.

The German representation in Pristina is the only visa center for an EU member state. All “Schengen visas” were therefore issued from the German side. The officials of the Foreign Office noted: "The visa office was literally overrun by applicants".

The authors of the report criticized the fact that "legal consular services" were listed on the list of priorities of the liaison office head as the "fourth and last priority" (after "cultural cooperation").

Corrupt forces within the embassy are also said to have tricked the Federal Foreign Office's visa computer: even if someone was on a warning list, they were issued a visa in Pristina - the applicant's name was simply entered with an additional space. Two local staff involved in this were also wanted by the police for bodily harm before they were employed at the Permanent Mission in Germany, which made it even more difficult for the investigating officers in the visa affair to obtain witness statements on the corruption allegations.

Visa Investigation Committee

On January 20, 2005, the first meeting of the Visa Committee of the German Bundestag took place on the subject. CDU chairman was Eckart von Klaeden , who faced Joschka Fischer in 2001 in an investigative committee. Von Klaeden replaced the previous chairman Jürgen Gehb .

On February 11, Ludger Volmer resigned as foreign policy spokesman for the Greens parliamentary group and his seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee . He also let his work at Synthesis GmbH rest. He had been accused of corruption in connection with unresolved payments by the Bundesdruckerei , which earned on the passports.

According to Volmer, the circular , known as the Volmer / Fischer Decree , had been endorsed by members of all parties and three parliamentary committees ( Human Rights Committee , Petitions Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee ). According to Volmer, the decree was motivated by grievances, for example the refusal of a visa for a patient who had to undergo surgery on a brain tumor in Germany. Important for the progress were next to this decree two older decrees of 1999 (Decree of 2 September 1999 and the Plurez decree of 15 October 1999) and other ordinances to travel insurance, which even under the Kohl government by ministers Kanther and Kinkel on were brought the way. In particular, these parts, on which the new decree was based, were then misused, according to the German Foreign Office. Whether the decree resulted in an increase in criminal offenses is controversial in the committee. Both the former Minister of State Volmer and Federal Foreign Minister Fischer rated the possible damage caused by restricting freedom of travel higher than the damage caused by the misuse of visas.

The German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer testified three days after Volmer on April 25, 2005. His opening speech alone lasted two hours and 18 minutes. He was then questioned by the committee members. After a one-hour break, the minister was questioned for over ten hours. He accused the Union of “unspeakable scandalization and propaganda ”, but also admitted mistakes: he was not sufficiently informed about the problems of the decree, which he wanted to know as the fisherman decree , and reacted too late. The statement was largely rated as a success for Fischer, even if media representatives were surprised at how little the minister had his house under control. Fischer gave a different picture: he answered the questions of the Union partly with detailed knowledge, partly he pretended not to be able to remember details - even very crucial ones - exactly. A fundamental contradiction in terms of his defense strategy had also been criticized: Fischer stated on the one hand that he wanted to fundamentally modernize immigration law, but on the other hand he emphasized that the instruments had all already been inaugurated by the previous government .

The questioning time of the individual parties in the visa investigation committee was based on the " Berlin Hour " (62 minutes), after which the speaking time for the individual parliamentary groups is determined based on the strength of the federal parties: the Union had 24 minutes, the SPD 21 minutes , the Greens eleven and the FDP six minutes question time.

On July 15, 2005, Otto Schily was interrogated in a marathon session. His opening statement was published on the Internet.

Inclusion in the media

In a comment by Mariam Lau, Die Welt raised the question of whether “the security of the Federal Republic had been sacrificed to a multicultural furor”. She brought Joschka Fischer's permissive visa policy in connection with his book Risk Germany . Lau characterized Fischer's attitude with the sentence “Germany must be enclosed from the outside and heterogenized, quasi 'diluted' from the inside by an influx”. The Lau quote isincorrectly attributed to Fischerin numerous Internet and web log entries.

New visa affair in 2010

According to Spiegel research , visas were systematically issued in exchange for bribes in German embassies in Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. According to the report, so-called local staff , i. H. Employees in the consular departments from the respective country, accused of systematically issuing visas for entry into Germany in 2009 and 2010, which were obviously based on false information. Several hundred euros are said to have been paid for a visa.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Mariam Lau: "Risk Germany" - Joschka Fischer in distress. In: Die Welt , February 7, 2005
  2. ^ New bribery affair in the Foreign Office . In: