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Merkel slams Schröder over job with Rosneft

August 21, 2017

The former German chancellor has come under fire from his successor for taking a top job with Russian oil giant Rosneft. The firm is a target of US and EU sanctions that were imposed after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schröder Vorstellung Biografie
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, for taking a job with Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is currently a target of US and European Union sanctions.

"I don't think what Schröder is doing is okay," she said Monday during an interview with the Bild newspaper that was broadcast live online.

The conservative Merkel joins a growing chorus of criticism of Schröder who, as head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), was chancellor of Germany from 1998 until his election defeat by Merkel in 2005.

Merkel said she would not take a job in industry after her run as chancellor ends, but she emphasized that her current focus is on winning a fourth term as chancellor. Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) currently have a comfortable 15-point lead over the SPD, with election scheduled for September 24.

"I don't intend to take any posts in industry once I am no longer chancellor, but I am first fully concentrated on the election and the fact that I would like to be chancellor again," the 63-year-old Merkel added.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is shown on a diving board, in the colors of the Russian flag, about to jump into a swimming pool of oil.
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is ridiculed for his close ties to Russian oil

Schroeder and Russia

The combative Schröder, 73, is no newcomer to Kremlin-based controversy. He has never hidden his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was heavily criticized for giving Putin a hug at the Russian leader's birthday party in St. Petersburg in 2014, just weeks after the Kremlin annexed the Crimean peninsula.

Within weeks of being bounced out of the chancellery in 2005, he became the head of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream, the pipeline company that transports natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea and is majority owned by Russia's Gazprom.

Schroeder and Putin share a laugh over dinner in 2004.
Schröder and Putin share a laugh over dinner in 2004Image: A. Panov/AFP//Getty Images

Now, just weeks before the general election, Schröder has again come under fire for accepting a $500,000-a-year (425,000-euro) board job with Russia's Rosneft, which is subject to western sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict.

Last week Schröder insisted his new job would not hurt the SPD's election chances, and accused his political enemies of maneuvering to get Merkel re-elected.

Martin Schulz, the SPD leader trying to topple Merkel in next month's election, has told Schröder of his concerns but also called it "a private matter" for the former chancellor.

Crimea sanctions

Schröder is still ridiculed for saying, back in 2005, that he agreed with a description of Putin as a "flawless democrat."

Rosneft's India deal

Meanwhile the Russian oil giant announced Monday it would buy a 49-percent stake in India's Essar Oil, in a deal valued at $12.9 billion.

In a statement, Essar called it "Russia's single largest foreign investment made anywhere in the world" and also "the single largest foreign investment in India."

The deal is potentially important for Russia as it avoids the US-EU sanctions aimed at the Russian oil giant.

Russian analysts and opposition leaders have said the deal will also allow the Kremlin to prop up the embattled regime of Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.

Rosneft has lent Venezuela at lease $6 billion since 2014, with the cash-strapped government in Caracas paying back some of the debt via oil shipments.

bik/bk (Reuters, AFP)