Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

Luxembourg spy chief resigns in 'toxic' climate

  • SRE director Doris Woltz will remain in a caretaker capacity until June 2024 (Photo: sre.gouvernement.lu)
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Luxembourg's spy chief has resigned amid bad publicity on EU and Nato security fails, as well as prickly relations with the duchy's new leader.

Doris Woltz's resignation as director of the Service de Renseignement de l'État (SRE) was formally accepted on 16 November, according to the country's legal gazette.

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She was leaving her post after seven years due to her "personal intent to retire from public service", according to an SRE spokeswoman.

The move came one day after press articles about security failures on her watch, prompting speculation about a potential link.

The SRE's own staff had alleged that Luxembourg was failing to protect EU and Nato secrets, EUobserver reported on 15 November.

A former Luxembourg minister also had clandestine ties to Russia, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the same day.

But "Ms Woltz's personal decision has no connection at all to any press related activities," the SRE told EUobserver on Wednesday (23 November).

She had first mentioned her plan to retire back in "early November" and she was going with full honours, they said.

"In light of her professional merits, the government has decided to confer the honorary title of her functions on Ms Doris Woltz after she effectively retires [on 1 June 2024]," the SRE said.

Her resignation was also accepted after her nemesis, Luxembourgish politician Luc Frieden, became the duchy's new prime minister, however.

And this was the more likely reason why Woltz felt her position was "untenable," some Luxembourg-watchers said.

Back in 2013, when Woltz was an investigating judge and Frieden was interior minister, she loudly accused him of obstructing a landmark case called "The Bommeleeër Affair", leading to a no-confidence vote in parliament.

"Luxembourg is a very small country ... Frieden was very angry about this. He never forgave her," said Finn Overdick, a writer on Luxembourg politics based in Munich, Germany.

Meanwhile, Woltz's departure with full honours stands in contrast to her treatment of the SRE's former trade-union president — Philippe Schaack.

Schaack served in the SRE for 16 years, but was "dishonourably" discharged after his union warned Luxembourg's Western allies that the duchy was failing to properly vet officials before letting them read secret EU and Nato files.

"The SRE is a respected member of the international security community", the Luxembourg government earlier told EUobserver in reaction to the allegation.

But that was not true, according to some Western intelligence contacts.

"The SRE's counterintelligence unit is doing little to fight Russian spy activity," one source told this website.

And Woltz's management style made matters worse, Overdick noted.

Her "toxic leadership" led to "disagreements with partner services," he said.

"The Americans were very much against her, which led to serious tensions over the years. As a result, the SRE is now excluded from numerous information channels," he added.

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