German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Defence Minister was fighting for his political survival yesterday amid reports that his office tried to cover up a scandal over the bungled purchase of a multi-million surveillance drone which proved too dangerous to be flown in European air space.
Thomas de Maizière is regarded as one of Angela Merkel’s closest allies and has been tipped as her possible successor. But the 59-year-old conservative Defence Minister faced calls for his resignation yesterday as the scandal surrounding his ministry’s Euro Hawk surveillance drone project worsened.
“This is a case of wasting money to an unimaginable degree,” said the opposition Social Democrat spokesman Thomas Oppermann in an interview in which he demanded the Defence Minister’s resignation. “Somebody has to take the political responsibility for this,” he added.
Mr de Maiziere stands accused of wasting €600m of taxpayers’ money by ordering the Euro Hawk drone from the US manufacturer Northrop Grumman, only to establish – five years after signing the contract – that the European Aviation Safety Agency would not allow the drone to fly in Europe.