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Schroeder Rebuked

DW staff (dm)August 18, 2008

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was the recipient of condemnatory remarks by several public figures after he placed the blame for the recent Caucasus war on the Georgian side.

Former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Former chancellor Schroeder's comments have met with strong resistanceImage: AP

Schroeder has been adamant in his insistence that Georgia was at fault and the chief protagonist in its recent conflict with Russia.

In light of these comments, however, Schroeder, who developed close ties with Moscow during his seven years in office, has come under fire himself, with observers insisting he has a vested interest in EU-Russia relations.

"More and more the sentiment is that the former chancellor has an imbalanced relationship from his previous position," Christian Social Union foreign policy spokesman Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Passauer Neuen Presse on Monday, Aug. 18. "Each of his declarations is an affront to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier."

Gazprom connection

Schroeder sits before a Gazprom logo
Schroeder heads Nord Stream project, which is heavily connected to GazpromImage: AP

Schroeder's critics have said such derision may have also been catalyzed by the fact that the former chancellor has firm connections with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Schroeder currently chairs the Nord Stream consortium, an energy concern overseeing a planned natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline would bypass countries such as Poland and Lithuania, thus depriving them of tax revenue.

Gazprom is a major player in Nord Stream, of which Schroeder was a major proponent while still in office. He initialed the go-ahead for the Baltic project, along with then Russian President Vladimir Putin, in September 2005, only weeks before the end of his tenure as chancellor.

Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union parliamentary party faction, touched on this in his criticism of the former chancellor.

"The recriminations were predictable," he told 24-hour news channel n-tv on Monday. "Schroeder is the prominent voice of Moscow in Germany."

The free-market liberal FPD party secretary general Dirk Niebel told the station he thought Schroeder was willing to do anything his employer asked.

"[Schroeder's] one-sided attribution of blame is in line with the motto: He who pays the piper calls the tune," Niebel said.

Reoccurring controversy

Tracking back to 2005, a mere two weeks after he left office, whispers of corruption surfaced after it became apparent Schroeder may sign on with Gazprom.

Georgian soldiers returning from Iraq in Tbilisi
The US military flew 2,000 Georgian troops home from Iraq after Georgia recalled themImage: AP

Editorialists at several German newspapers as well as politicians of Germany's political parties were highly critical of his planned involvement with Nord Stream.

Schroeder, however, continues to insist the EU press ahead with forming a "strategic partnership" with Russia, saying Europe risked losing influence and pushing Moscow towards China if it did not work with the Kremlin.

Other European politicians, particularly in capitals of former Soviet satellite nations, have called for a re-evaluation of European-Russian ties.