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Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. File photo: dpa

Germany strips ex-chancellor Schroeder of official perks over Russia ties

  • Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has refused sever ties with Russian energy giants
  • Schroeder’s publicly funded office to be closed, remaining staff reallocated after parliament’s decision
Ukraine war

Germany has removed perks accorded to former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, assessing that he has failed to uphold the obligations of his office by refusing to sever ties with Russian energy giants.

The parliament’s decision to strip Schroeder of an office and paid staff follows a lengthy effort to get him to turn his back on President Vladimir Putin, which spiked after Russia invaded Ukraine.

EU lawmakers separately called in a non-binding resolution on the bloc to slap sanctions on Schroeder and other Europeans who refuse to give up lucrative board seats at Russian companies.

“The coalition parliamentary groups have drawn consequences from the behaviour of former chancellor and lobbyist Gerhard Schroeder in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the parliament decided on Thursday.

“The office of the former chancellor shall be suspended,” it said, noting that Schroeder “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

German media have put the annual cost of Schroeder’s office and employees paid for by taxpayers at around €400,000 (US$421,000).

Germany accuses Russia of ‘weaponising’ energy as gas feud escalates

Schroeder, Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has been under fire for refusing to quit his posts with Russian energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom following Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

He condemned the invasion as unjustified but said that dialogue must continue with Moscow.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak lauded the moves against Schroeder on Thursday, describing him as a “lobbyist” for Putin.

“European sanctions and deprivation of personal privileges – the inglorious end of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder,” he tweeted. “Eventually, you always have to pay the price.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who like Schroeder is from the Social Democratic Party, has also repeatedly and publicly urged the former leader to give up his Russian jobs, but to no avail.

Schroeder, 78, is chairman of the board of directors of Russian oil giant Rosneft, and due to join the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in June.

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Gerhard Schroeder in 2018. File photo: AFP

The gas group is behind the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which has been halted by Scholz in one of the West’s first responses to the war in Ukraine.

Schroeder himself signed off on the first Nord Stream in his final weeks in office.

In fact, he took a job with Gazprom as chairman of the shareholder’s committee at its subsidiary Nord Stream in 2005, just days after leaving office and parliament in 2005.

Germany to supply Ukraine with heavy weaponry for first time

Schroeder faced a fresh wave of outrage from former political allies after The New York Times quoted him saying that the massacre of civilians in Bucha “has to be investigated” but he didn’t think the orders would have come from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a long-time friend.

When the Russian leader held his inauguration in 2018, Schroeder was in the front row.

Asked in 2004 if Putin was a “flawless democrat”, Schroeder said he was “convinced that he is”.

Additional reporting by Associated Press