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Will Gerhard Schröder be a problem for the SPD?

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | World News

The friendship of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to the head of the Kremlin Vladimir Putin and his activities for Russian companies has long been controversial. The SPD has hitherto overlooked this. But now, too, Schröder is taking a step too far – right in the middle of the election campaign.

It is just seven weeks ago that Schröder was celebrated in the thrust-filled Westfalenhalle by 4000 SPD comrades. The third Chancellor of the Social Democrats, who for seven years led a red-green federal government, had been invited by the party committee as a courage.

In 2005, he had almost caught up with the challenger Angela Merkel from the CDU and only just managed to get past a third term of office. That, according to his message, Martin Schulz could do. "Nothing has been decided," Schröder cried to the chancellor candidate and his followers. "We fought and caught up."

The Dortmund party congress did not bring a turnaround in the polls. And the courageous of those days seems now to be a problem for the SPD. On 29 September, five days after the Bundestag election, the old Chancellor wants to move into the supervisory board of the Russian oil company Rosneft. As an "independent director" he would be part of an expanded eleven-headed executive committee. Experts believe his choice is safe. The message sparks the SPD into the prelude of the hot election campaign phase.

Rosneft is on the EU sanctions list
After the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, the company Rosneft is on the list of sanctions of the EU. The penal sanctions forbade it to supply special technology and services for oil production to the Moscow-based company. In addition, European banks are not allowed to make any money transactions of more than 30 days with Rosneft. Rosneft had failed with a complaint against the sanctions. The European Court of Justice had also declared the measures lawful.

 Because of his proximity to Russia and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, Schröder has been criticized for many years. His classification of Putin as a "lupenreiner Demokrat", which he still held as chancellor, is undeniable. The two have a close friendship. When Schröder ruled, the relationship between Germany and Russia was still dominated by common economic interests. Dreams from a free-trade zone from Vladivostok to Vancouver seemed realistic, and Schröder and Putin were united with the US war on Iraq and the Crimean crisis was still unthinkable.

Shortly after his election victory, the 73-year-old now joined the operator of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which takes the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. He became Chairman of the Shareholders' Committee of a consortium, on which the Russian state-owned company Gazprom holds the majority.

  SPD-tip distanced itself from Schröder
With the planned commitment to the company sanctioned by the EU Rosneft, he now goes a step further – for the SPD leadership it is one too far. On Monday, Secretary General Hubertus Heil first dissociated himself on demand. On Tuesday, Schulz went to the offensive on Facebook. He emphasized that the application was with Rosneft Schröder's privacy and had nothing to do with the policy of the SPD. "I would not do that," he wrote. "For me it is clear: Even after my time as Chancellor, I will not accept jobs in the private sector."

Schulz knows that an image of Russia's image would be a stepping-stone to the competition in the election campaign. With his quick reaction he takes her a little wind from the sails, but not so completely. His argument that the Rosneft commitment is privacy is not everyone follows. "Rosneft is not only a company, it is primarily the core of Putin's power system, and the involvement of a former Federal Chancellor is therefore nothing but a private matter," said CDU foreign policy chief Norbert Röttgen of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Schröder smokes conspiracy
And the CSU chairman and Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, who had already been accused of being too close to Putin, because of his travels to Moscow, said: "The whole thing has a taste because private economic interests and politics are mixed." He was sure that Schröder's commitment to the SPD would be hurt.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) has not yet publicly expressed Schröder's Rosneft ambitions. A few weeks ago he had demonstrated at one of his strikingly frequent trips to Russia that he had no problem with the proximity of Schroeder to Putin. In the residence of the Russian President at the Baltic Sea, the three dined together well after midnight. But Rosneft's post was not supposed to have happened at the time.

And Schröder himself? He smokes a conspiracy and criticizes the media coverage in the interview of the German editorial team (RND): "I have the impression that this has less to do with my work than with the election campaign."

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