Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Schroder under fire for taking gas pipeline top job

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder is facing flak for taking a new job as board chairman of a Russian-German consortium building a direct gas pipeline between the two countries – a project he heavily promoted as chancellor.

It emerged over the weekend, just weeks after Angela Merkel took over the chancellorship, that Mr Schroder will head the shareholder committee of a new joint pipeline company that brings together Gazprom, a Russian state-owned firm, and German giants BASF and E.ON Ruhrgas.

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  • Mr Schroder is alleged to have secured the top job through Mr Putin’s help. (Photo: Kremlin Press Service)

As chancellor, Mr Schroder in September symbolically attended the signing of the five billion dollar pipeline deal, along with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Russian and former German leader, who enjoy a close personal relationship, had both heavily promoted the deal, and German politicians and media suspect Mr Schroder secured the top supervising job with Mr Putin’s help.

The president of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, described the career move as "instinct-less", adding that it seemed unthinkable for a former government chief not to see there was a "link between political engagement and personal economic interests".

German media reports have also said the former chancellor would pocket one million euros for the post - allegations which have been dismissed by Mr Schroder as "nonsense".

Top politicians of Mr Schroder’s own social democrat SPD party have joined the chorus of voices criticising the career move, with SPD parliamentary leader Peter Struck saying he himself would not have taken the job.

\"Nonsense\"

Christian Democrat chancellor Angela Merkel said she had a "certain understanding" for the criticism, announcing that the government would consider setting up a code of conduct for former top politicians, as already exists elsewhere in Europe.

But in an interview with Sueddeutsche on Monday (12 December), the former chancellor hit back at critics, saying he would take legal steps against those bringing false allegations.

"A lot of nonsense is being said by politicians and media", he said, adding that his lawyer would examine possibilities for legal action.

"For me it is a question of honour to participate in the pipeline project … I already supported it politically in the past because I think it makes sense", Mr Schroder stated.

But legal experts have said Mr Schroder himself could face criminal proceedings under German law for making money from his political office.

Strategic importance

The 1,200 km pipeline will link St. Petersburg in Russia directly via the Baltic sea to Greifswald in Germany.

The scheme has huge strategic importance because the direct pipeline will bypass EU states which have difficult relations with Moscow, such as Poland and the Ukraine.

The bilateral project has sparked strong criticism in Poland and the Baltic states, which fear their position vis-a-vis Moscow will be weakened by the German-Russian deal.

Approximately one quarter of Europe's gas is supplied by Russia.

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