Ex-German chancellor fends off party expulsion attempt over ‘Russia ties’
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will remain a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), a party committee decided on Thursday. Schroeder forged close ties with Russia during his time in office, and angered the current SPD establishment by meeting with President Vladimir Putin last summer, in the midst of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.
An SPD arbitration committee in Hannover ruled that Schroeder had violated no party rules, and thus could not be expelled, Reuters reported. The ruling upheld a decision by the same committee last August not to revoke Schroeder’s membership over his work for Russian companies, despite more than a dozen local branches of the party demanding his expulsion.
Schroeder served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, during which he signed off on the construction of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Germany’s economy flourished during his tenure, with the country’s industry fueled by cheap Russian gas.
After leaving office, Schroeder worked as a director of Nord Stream AG, the German-Russian consortium responsible for both Nord Stream pipelines, which were destroyed – by the US, according to recent reporting – in September. He also served as a director on the board of Russian oil giant Rosneft, a position that he resigned from last May.
These positions caused friction between Schroeder and the SPD, which has abandoned its long-standing aversion to military intervention under Scholz and sent $2.4 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its military operation last February. While Scholz’s government canceled the certification of Nord Stream 2 immediately before the conflict began, Schroeder continued to push for the pipeline to be put into operation, calling Russian gas “the simplest solution” to the EU’s energy crisis.
Germany’s ruling parties stripped Schroeder of his parliamentary privileges in May, a month after he relinquished his honorary citizenship of Hannover before the city could strip him of it.
Less than a month into the conflict in Ukraine, Schroeder traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin. He insisted afterwards that Russia sought a negotiated solution to the conflict, and that he would keep seeking “opportunities to talk to President Putin” to help make this happen.