German taxpayer money will no longer pay for the office and staff that former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder maintains in Berlin as former head of government. The coalition Executive of the also Social Democrat Olaf Scholz has decided to withdraw that privilege due to his links with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Schröder’s office represents some 400,000 euros a year for the public treasury between current expenses and the salaries of five assistants. His refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that he retains his seats on the boards of several Russian state-owned companies has been the straw that breaks the camel’s back for almost two decades of undisguised work for his own benefit and that of a foreign country. .
The 78-year-old former foreign minister has become an extremely uncomfortable figure for the current head of government. Both Scholz and the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, were Schröder’s pupils at the beginning of his political careers and now it is their turn to disassociate themselves from his legacy. Scholz asked him in early March in a television interview to resign from his positions in Russian companies. He not only didn’t do it, but a few weeks later he conceded an interview to New York Times which aroused the indignation of the entire German political class: he defended, or rather he did not condemn Putin, and questioned the authorship of the Bucha massacre.
As he said then, he would only leave his posts – for which he receives almost a million euros a year, according to the calculation of the American newspaper – if Moscow stops supplying gas to Germany. The politician has been one of Putin’s strongmen in Europe since he left office in 2005. And some maintain that he was too while he was chancellor. It has dedicated itself to defending Russia’s interests, especially with regard to gas, by first promoting the Nord Stream 1, the controversial gas pipeline that transports hydrocarbons directly from Russia through the Baltic Sea bed, and later its expansion, the Nord Stream 2, terminated but halted by order of the German Government in response to Russian aggression.
an international outcast
A few days after the start of the war, the staff of Schröder’s office resigned en bloc. All the former European leaders seduced by Putin had resigned from their lucrative positions except him. The pressure was maximum, but the former chancellor did not notice. Turned into a pariah, Schröder even traveled to Moscow to meet with the Russian president without first informing the German government. According to him, he went as a mediator, but the visit did not bear fruit.
“The former high officials who are clearly on the side of criminal governments cannot count on the support of the state”, said the finance minister and leader of the Liberals, Christian Lindner, on the withdrawal of privileges paid for with public money. The three parties in the coalition have agreed to present a motion in the Bundestag, the upper house of the German Parliament, to close the office, located in a building on the famous Unter den Linden boulevard – just opposite the Russian Embassy – and to extinguish the jobs associated with it. The documentation generated these years will be kept in the State archives. “The budget commission notes that former Chancellor Schröder no longer exercises any function derived from his former position,” says the motion, which will be voted on Thursday.
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Although there is no opposition – the Christian Democrats asked to go further and leave him only with the security operation – the parliamentary initiative is delicate from a legal point of view because there are no precedents. It had never been necessary to withdraw privileges from a former chancellor. That is why the text includes a passage in which it ensures that other former heads of government could be affected if they do not exercise their responsibilities in accordance with the interests of Germany. Schröder, yes, will maintain his former chancellor’s pension, which amounts to 8,300 euros per month. According to the Government, withdrawing it would violate the Constitution.