Two conservative German politicians are being investigated and have resigned from their respective parties, as part of a growing political scandal over business deals related to the procurement of face masks.
Nikolas Löbel, a now former MP for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) party, bowed to pressure after revelations that his company earned commissions of about €250,000 ($300,000) for brokering sales contracts, while Georg Nüsslein, from the CSU, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, faces accusations he received €660,000 to lobby for a mask supplier.
Reacting to the political storm, prominent conservative MP Andreas Nick told DW’s Conflict Zone that these cases are "totally unacceptable" and will require politicians to "clean up where there are unforgivable violations of ethical standards."
"We need to go through a very clear process of making sure that compliance with ethical standards is ensured," he said.
Nick, a member of the CDU, stressed that these are "individual cases" and that they shouldn’t be used "in a demagogue fashion to discredit parliamentarians and politicians who serve the public to its best interests."
The scandal threatens to badly affect trust in the CDU ahead of two regional elections that will take place this weekend.
'Patience is running out'
Talking to Tim Sebastian from the city of Bonn, Nick acknowledged that "patience is running out with people who have been exposed to lockdown policies for quite some time."
He also said that "some of the expectations have probably been unrealistic," but added he is confident that Germany will improve.
"I have always taken the view if by mid-year 2021 we would have universal vaccination, this would be a very good result and I'm pretty convinced we will get there," he said.
Nick specifically mentioned the fact that family doctors will be allowed to offer coronavirus vaccinations in Germany from April onwards, which is seen as a way to boost Germany’s lagging program.
So far, only around 7% of Germany’s population has received a first jab, which is less than other countries like the US, the UK and Israel, as well as other members of the EU.
Nord Stream 2 pipeline
Host Tim Sebastian also pressed Andreas Nick on another controversial issue, the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to double Russian gas shipments to Germany and has faced considerable opposition from the US and eastern European countries, among others.
Part of the criticism refers to the fact that business is being made with Russia at a time when, as Sebastian put it, "Russia shows sharply declining respect for human rights."
Nick did admit that Nord Stream 2 "has been critically viewed by some in Germany for many years," but he said the project should be completed, arguing that it wouldn’t be an "adequate strategy" to stop it unilaterally at this stage.
The CDU politician added that "negative developments" in Russia, including the recent detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, would have to be dealt with "in the appropriate multilateral formats."
Nick also stressed that Germany should not be "singled out" for its relations with Russia and that there should be "a very honest debate" that includes other countries in the EU and the Western alliance.
"If the whole of Central Eastern Europe buys energy from Russia, if the United States buys crude oil for 30 billion dollars a year in Russia, I cannot explain to my electorate why Germany should be treated differently from anybody else," he concluded.