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Retired EU ambassador suspected of spying for China

Posted January. 22, 2020 07:50,   

Updated January. 22, 2020 07:50


There are growing calls for regulating post-retirement activities of diplomats due to the controversy over former senior European Union ambassador Gerhard Sabathil suspected of spying for China.

Politico reported Monday that the European Union is likely to enhance security and regulations on activities of retired staff. Many are especially critical about retired government officials working as a lobbyist in relevant industries and going back to government job. “We need strict regulations on former EU officials working as a lobbyist,” German Greens MEP Sven Giegold said, while expressing his will to propose a bill.

The EU is raising its guard against China. Communications devices of a Belgian minister and trade officials have recently been hacked 135 times. There are suspicions that Chinese hackers and spies are behind this. There are rumors that a flock of Chinese spies disguised as lobbyist are operating in popular restaurants in Brussels, Belgium where the EU is headquartered. Against this backdrop, the EU has reportedly guided its staff to “avoid contacts with suspicious personnel” and provided guidance on activities on social networks.

Hungarian-German Sabathil was an EU ambassador to South Korea, Iceland, Norway and other countries between 1984 and 2017 and headed of the East Asia and Asia Pacific Bureau European under the External Action Service (EEAS). After retirement as a diplomat, he landed a job at EUTOP, a lobbyist group. The German and Belgian authorities are investigating him over allegations of handing over information on EU’s economy to China. Up to 15 years in prison can be sentenced if the allegations are confirmed. Some raise concerns that this would negatively affect the relations between Germany and China planning to have a summit at the end of March.

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com