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Germany: Ex-Chancellor Schröder loses privileges appeal

June 6, 2024

Gerhard Schröder sought to keep a taxpayer-funded office and staff in Berlin. He was stripped of his right to retain both after refusing to distance himself from longtime friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Germany's former Chencellor Gerhard Schröder seen in an elevator at the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court after losing his appeal to keep a free office in the Bundestag
Going down? Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has refused give up perks stripped over his ties to RussiaImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Gerhard Schröder, chancellor of Germany from 1998 to 2005, lost a second appeal to maintain a fully-staffed, taxpayer-funded office in Berlin's Bundestag on Thursday.

The case was argued before the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court after a previous appeal was rejected by a lower administrative court in May 2023.  

The right to a staffed office, among other perks, is common for former government leaders; but in May 2022, the Bundestag's Budget Committee stripped Schröder of the right, arguing that he was no longer fulfilling any obligations tied to his previous role in government.

Schröder: refusing to denounce Putin, refusing to leave the party

Schröder had previously come under increasing pressure — both public and from within the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that he led from 1999 to 2004 — for his chumminess with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his business ties to Moscow.

Criticism of Schröder became especially intense when he refused to renounce the Russian strongman in the wake of his invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin
Gerhard Schröder has been heavily criticized for his close relationship to PutinImage: Alexei Druzhinin/dpa/picture alliance

Though Schröder's Russia-friendly foreign policy attitude was not unique among German politicians — with Chancellors Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz as well as Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier all playing crucial roles in establishing closer ties between Berlin and Moscow through projects such as the Nord Stream gas pipelines — his stance was unique for its steadfastness in the face of public outcry over Putin's naked aggression toward a neighboring country.

Schröder, who was also a board member at Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft, even traveled to Moscow to meet Putin to discuss a "negotiated resolution" in Ukraine in March 2022, a move Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called "disgusting."

Though Schröder has faced repeated calls to leave the SPD, he has refused. And although attempts have been made to force him out, a move to officially expel him last year failed when it was determined that he had not in fact broken any party rules.

js/nm (dpa, Reuters)