Earlier this week, emails were leaked to the press implying that Heiko Maas, a German Social Democratic Party member and part of Angela Merkel’s Cabinet, was responsible for supporting the Five Star Movement. The Five Star Movement is an anti-establishment, anti-globalist, populist and Eurosceptic Italian political party. This was leaked just after Italy left the European Union, and fingers pointed straight at Maas for his backing of Italian nationalists. Other members of the Cabinet went on to claim that the news was false, claiming Maas was unflinchingly loyal. The Guardian and CNN wanted to investigate this story.
At a meeting of Merkel’s Cabinet, we had a chance to ask its members questions. The first question – did you do it? – was answered with a resounding no (and that was expected). When we asked why the members of the Cabinet believed the news was fake, Maas responded with, “Why I think it’s fake? Because it’s not true.” After, though, he and other Cabinet members like Sigmar Gabriel, another member of the Social Democratic Party, went on to explain further. The proof we asked for? Apparently, federal intelligence services had investigated the emails and they really were fake. Another Cabinet member said they’d used a triple VPN – and again, it was fake. We don’t know if that’s true or not, but here’s what else the Guardian found out.
Q 1: Do you believe in anti-particracy like the Five Star Movement?
The answer to this was, again, a very strong, very loud no. Maas stuck to this – that he believed more than anyone that the European Union was necessary, important, and should not be broken up. While he did say that there were some political parties that believed Germany should be first, he also clarified that they were extremist parties that were not part of the Cabinet. Sigmar Gabriel said pretty much the same thing – that Germany (and the Cabinet) wanted Europe to be strong and united for everyone’s benefit.
Q 2: These emails implicate you (Maas) for supporting Italian nationalists who wanted to leave the EU? Do you want to break up the EU completely?
The answer to this, again, was that the emails were fake, the news was fake, and Maas wanted nothing more than solidarity in Europe.
Q 3: Are there people in your country and/or Cabinet that support the de-growth and structural shift of industries? Do they know about this?
The answer to this (after we were told that it was a valid question) – again, there were extremist groups that wanted Germany to be nationalist and only look out for itself. They didn’t deny that, but they did say that the Cabinet’s goal was to strengthen Germany and Europe economically and socially. That could only be done if the European countries stood together and moved forward. The Cabinet did not support de-growth at all.
Q 4, the last question: Is there anyone in this Cabinet that could have put the blame on Maas?
The answer to this question was unanimous – no. Every member of the Cabinet said that it was a united body, committed to working for the benefit of Germany. Every member wanted what was best for their country and would never even dream of undermining their work or a colleague in that way.
The Guardian and CNN were left with many remaining questions on Heiko Maas’ innocence.