Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to resign from the boards of Russian state-owned energy companies.
Schröder, 77, is a longtime business partner from Kremlin circles and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The former German head of state sits on the board of directors of Russian state-owned energy giant Rosneft and is set to take a position on the board of Gazprom. He is also involved in the controversial Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipeline projects, which connect Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea and bypassing Ukraine. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been constructed but is not in operation. Nord Stream 1 continues to deliver Russian gas to Germany.
Schroeder’s ties to Putin and Russian energy companies have drawn criticism both inside and outside Germany and have become increasingly embarrassing for the German state since last week’s Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Social Democrat leaders Lars Klingbeil and Saskia Esken said earlier Thursday they had written to Schröder asking him to resign from his posts at Russian energy companies. Both Scholz and Schröder are members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
What did Scholz say?
Scholz said on ZDF: “I don’t think it’s right that Gerhard Schröder holds these offices. And I think it would be right for him to give it up.”
Scholz emphasized that Schröder was also a former head of state as a private person and that his business affairs were more of a private matter.
Scholz added: “This commitment does not end when you leave office, it continues.”
Scholz said he hoped Schröder’s allies could “convince him to reconsider his past decisions”.
Who is Gerhard Schroeder?
Schröder was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1998 to 2005. After Angela Merkel succeeded him in the chancellor’s office after the 2005 federal election, Schröder moved to Nord Stream in 2006.
Four employees in Schröder’s office resigned earlier this week because of his ties to Russian state companies.
Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund revoked his honorary membership in the club, which he had bestowed on the former chancellor.
Why is German Russia policy having a difficult moment?
While Germany is in both the EU and NATO, Berlin had long sought to maintain good relations with Moscow due to the country’s energy needs and business ties.
On Sunday, Scholz practically rewrote Germany’s Russia policy after invading Ukraine, sending anti-tank missiles and surface-to-air missiles to Ukrainians as security aid, as well as 100 billion euros in investments to shore up Germany’s Bundeswehr.
The U-turn, particularly in arms exports, is notable given that Germany previously said it would refuse to send arms to a conflict zone.
Aside from one former head of state being perceived as uncomfortably close to Moscow, several former senior leaders of Germany’s armed forces said last week the country’s military was unprepared for the new security challenges.
ar/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)