22:00 GMT01 December 2020
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    The Austrian government has insisted on explanations from Germany following an urgent meeting over allegations that the latter's intelligence services tapped thousands of telephone, fax and mobile lines in Austria for years. In the surveillance list, there are international diplomats, business people, along with Islamic leaders and terror suspects.

    Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have demanded explanations from the German authorities at the joint press conference, slamming the very idea of spying over the closest allies.

    "Spying on friendly states is not only uncommon and undesirable, but unacceptable," said Van der Bellen.

    Complaining about the considerable scale of the alleged surveillance program, Kurz stated that all the stored data, allegedly obtained by the Germans, should be deleted. He told the press that they had contacted the German authorities, but stressed that there is currently no evidence of the media’s revelation.

    The chancellor did not rule out that the prosecutor will start an investigation, pointing out that the Austrian authorities had already initiated investigations in 2014. Germany refused to cooperate then, but according to Kurz, since 2016, legal regulations in Germany have been tightened.

    Germany’s Federal Intelligence (BND) service has systematically spied on communications of the Austrian government, international organizations and companies based in Vienna, as a report published by the local magazines Profil and Der Standard has revealed.

    READ MORE: Germany Surveilled White House, US Defense Sector for Years

    Germany had allegedly monitored over 2,000 communication lines and e-mail addresses from 1999 to 2006, paying particular attention to Vienna-based international institutions, according to the German intelligence’s documents. The report says that the surveillance was imposed on 75 foreign missions, the headquarters of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, as well as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

    A number of international companies with branches in Austria are also in the list. The media outlets also posed the question whether the German intelligence services were involved in economic espionage to give Germany a competitive advantage.

    Along with thousands of phone numbers belonging to terror and organized crime suspects, the Germans also allegedly spied on Austrian foreign and defense ministers, the chancellor’s office, Austrian Interpol, as well as the Islamic community in Austria and non-governmental organizations.

    The BND declined to comment on the revelations to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, stating that it reports only to the federal government and the secretive committees of the German Parliament.


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