Gerhard Schröder, a former German chancellor and well-known lobbyist for Russia’s interests in Europe, is a scant millimeter away from becoming a true international pariah due to his proximity to Moscow. The European Parliament has requested this Thursday that his name be included in the black list of those sanctioned by the EU. The resolution of the European Parliament, approved with the support of the large political groups, “strongly demands” the former socialist politician to leave his positions of responsibility in Russian state companies, a decision that others have taken in recent times, such as the former first Ministers Esko Aho (Finland) and the French François Fillon.
The text of the resolution, focused on the economic and social consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, urges the Council (the body that represents the Twenty-seven) to “expand the list of people subject to EU sanctions to members European members of the boards of directors of the main Russian companies and the politicians who continue to receive Russian money”, which would include the former German president, whom the text expressly indicates, if he does not leave his posts.
Schröder, 78, currently holds the position of chairman of the supervisory board at oil giant Rosneft and has been nominated to join the board of gas emporium Gazprom; he also chairs the board of directors of Nord Stream, the business consortium in which Gazprom participates along with EU companies, dedicated to importing gas from Russia to Germany by pipeline.
The European Parliament demands in the same terms Karin Kneissl, former Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Government of Sebastian Kurz and a personal friend of Vladimir Putin (the Russian danced with her on the day of her wedding), to undertake the same path and abandon his responsible position at Rosneft. The proposal of the community hemicycle is not mandatory or binding, but it does indicate the growing pressure for former bigwigs in European politics to stop supporting the Putin regime.
The isolation of the social democrat Schröder, who served as German chancellor between 1998 and 2005, is increasing in Germany and the rest of the EU. His closeness to Putin and his refusal to condemn the Kremlin-launched invasion of Ukraine have left him sidelined and out of the game: a persona non grata.
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During his tenure, he laid the foundations for building the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline and shortly after leaving the chancellery, he made the leap to the company that manages it. His proximity to the postulates of the Kremlin is well known: in public interviews he has come to question the authorship of the massacre perpetrated in Bucha. Nothing out of the script for a person who in 2014 celebrated his 70th birthday in the company of the Russian president in St. Petersburg. It happened a few weeks after the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia.
But the pressure is increasing against him. The Berlin Executive, led by the also Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, has decided to stop defraying with public funds the 400,000 euros per year that the office and staff that the former chancellor maintains as former head of government cost. The decision, already agreed by the government coalition parties on Wednesday, is voted on Thursday, and everything indicates that it will go ahead.
“The rise and fall of Schröder is a mirror of the German industrial model,” Wolfgang Münchau, analyst and founder of Eurointelligence, wrote this Thursday, in line with the European Parliament resolution. “Schröder’s political action and the industrial model he defended have in common the absolute lack of sustainability. And what is not sustainable ends at some point.
Agreement on gas reserves
In its resolution, the European Parliament also calls on the Council to expand the list of those sanctioned by the EU, taking as a model a proposal of 6,000 people presented by the Navalni Foundation, of the imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalni. The extensive current black book, which has exceeded a thousand people, includes prominent Russian oligarchs, as well as President Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. Inclusion on the list implies the prohibition of entry into community territory and the freezing of assets in the EU (although Putin and Lavrov have not been prohibited from entering, to leave open a possible diplomatic path).
The European Parliament has also managed to seal this Thursday, after very intense negotiations, a political agreement with the Council to oblige Member States to fill gas reserves to 80% capacity before this winter, a figure that will rise to 90 % from 2023. The proposal was launched by the European Commission in March, given the risk of shortages arising from the war in Ukraine and retaliation for Western sanctions against the Kremlin and its economic apparatus.
One of the most controversial points of the discussions has had to do precisely with the hydrocarbon imported from Russia: the parliament intended to prevent the storage obligation from being fulfilled with Russian gas, according to a community source with access to the negotiation. Finally, it was agreed to make a mention of the need to ensure energy diversification, but without including a ban on Russian gas.
“We have reached a rapid political agreement on the gas storage proposal”, celebrated the European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, on social networks. “This proposal is key to ensuring that we are prepared next winter.” After the political agreement, both European co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council, have to give the formal and definitive approval to the measure.