On Friday, executives at Russia's state-owned energy giant Rosneft elected former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to their board.
Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, who endorsed Schröder, said his spot on the board would prove beneficial to the energy company.
"The appointment of Mr. Schroeder to the board of directors as an independent member will obviously facilitate the company's international development, expansion of its presence in Europe, and establishment of efficient ties with Western partners," he said at the shareholders' meeting, according to the TASS state news agency.
Schröder's decision to accept the Rosneft nomination, which was put forward by the Russian government, has been vocally rebuked back in Berlin by all major parties, including his own Social Democrats (SPD).
Rosneft is on the European Union's list of companies that face sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
On Friday, the chair of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, Norbert Röttgen, told the German public broadcaster ZDF that it was "completely unbelievable" that Schröder would use his previous role as chancellor to "cash in" at a Russian company.
Rosneft was a "central building block" in Russian President Vladimir Putin's system of power, Röttgen said. He went on to accuse Schröder of working to heighten Germany's energy dependence on Russia.
Ahead of the German federal election, Schröder denied that his position on the Rosneft board would damage the SPD's chances of victory. Martin Schulz, the SPD candidate who ultimately fell short, said he had told Schröder of his concerns over the position but also called it "a private matter" for the former chancellor. Reports from within the SPD, which saw its worst electoral results since World War II, suggested that party members were incensed with their former leader's new role.
Schröder's Gazprom links
The former chancellor has enjoyed a long friendship with Putin, going as far as calling the Russian leader a "flawless democrat." Shortly after leaving the chancellery in 2005, Schröder became board chairman for the Russian-German gas pipeline, Nord Stream.
Russia's other state-owned energy giant, Gazprom, owns a majority stake in the Nord Stream pipeline, and Schröder has worked closely with the firm ever since. He became chairman of a consortium shareholder's committee in which Gazprom also held a majority stake. Last year, he went on to become chairman of the board of directors at Nord Stream 2, a Gazprom subsidiary.
Schröder's salary and state pension scrutinized
While his precise salary at Rosneft is still unknown, an executive on the energy giant's board usually fetches around €6 million ($7 million) per year. Schröder, however, has indicated that he will accept less than 10 percent of that salary — about 600,000.
On Friday, the chancellery also revealed that Schröder would receive more than €560,000 euros this year to maintain a permanent office in Berlin documenting his political legacy. Most of the money is designated to paying his office staff. Helge Braun, who acts as Merkel's Minister of State to the Federal Chancellor, said that Schröder, like all former chancellors, had a right to maintain such an office.
Schröder also receives about €6,500 per month as an annual state pension for his seven years as chancellor — that's equivalent to about 35 percent of Merkel's salary, as dictated by law. That does not include additional emoluments that he receives for his time in the state parliament in Lower Saxony and as a member of the Bundestag.
dm/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)