Germany comes down on Putin-friendly ex-chancellor

Gerhard Schroder, former Chancellor of Germany. [European Commission]

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder could face being stripped of privileges, titles and suspended by his party after refusing to end his business relations with Russian state-owned companies.

Condemnation of Schröder’s behaviour and actions against him have increased after he continued to refuse to resign from his posts on the boards of Russian energy companies such as Rosneft and Nord Stream. The ex-chancellor, a long-term personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also set to join Gazprom’s supervisory board.

His party, current Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), has urged Schröder to step down from all of his posts in a letter sent on Saturday, party leaders Saskia Esken and Lars Klingbeil announced on Thursday, saying they expected a “prompt reply”. Should Schröder fail to comply, the party will consider further measures.

A regional SPD party branch has also launched a procedure to kick Schröder out of the party. Although a formal exclusion is legally tricky and would require a lengthy process, Klingbeil said there were other options for “immediate measures,” such as a temporary suspension of his party mandate.

In German politics, Schröder has long been known as an avid advocate of good political and business relations with Russia.

The ex-chancellor “is completely isolated among the Social Democrats,” Klingbeil stressed, adding that “nobody within the party leadership approves of or defends his actions at all.”

Meanwhile, the German taxpayers’ association has called for Schröder’s state-financed privileges as ex-chancellor to be scrapped. Among other things, Schröder receives funds to maintain a Berlin office, of which four employees have already resigned in protest.

The ex-chancellor is also being stripped of several honorary titles, such as his honorary citizenship of Hannover and his honorary membership of football club Borussia Dortmund.

(Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.de)

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