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SPD considers kicking out Schröder over Putin ties

July 14, 2022

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has been under fire for his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. Now Schröder's party is mulling his expulsion.

Gerhard Schöder
Schröder, who served as German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has had a close relationship with PutinImage: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopress/picture alliance

Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), which leads the country's coalition government, began on Thursday formally debating the possible expulsion of former chancellor Gerhard Schröder from the party over his close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The proceedings were opened by the party's branch in the western city of Hanover, but a decision by the arbitration commission will likely take weeks.

Local party official Christoph Matterne said they had received 17 motions against Schröder's membership. 

Schröder has "decided that his financial and personal dependence on Putin is more important than his commitment to the SPD or the legacy of his chancellorship," senior party member Thomas Kutschaty told the Rheinische Post daily.

Legal scholars say there are high hurdles for expelling members from the party.

Schröder will also be able to appeal any decision against him.

Reluctance to cut Russian ties

Schröder, who served as German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, is known for his close friendship with Putin.

Just a few months after he had to step down as chancellor following the 2005 election results, Schröder became chairman of the supervisory board of the Russian-German company Nord Stream AG, which is majority-owned by Russian state energy company Gazprom.

In 2017, Schröder was named chairman of the supervisory board for the Russian state energy company Rosneft.

Since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, however, Schröder has been under fire for his close ties to the Kremlin and for his reluctance to cut his business ties with Russia.

The former German leader has condemned the invasion as unjustified but hasn't criticized Putin, a stance that drew sharp censure from across the political spectrum in Germany.

He also continued to hold the lucrative posts at the Russian energy giants until public and political pressure forced him to give them up.

The German parliament voted to cut back Schröder's special rights and privileges as a former chancellor, stripping him of his taxpayer-funded office and staff.

The European Parliament also passed a resolution urging sanctions on Schröder and other EU political figures with financial ties to Russia.

In May, Schröder finally announced that he would leave the supervisory board of Rosneft.

He also turned down a nomination for a supervisory board position at Gazprom.

War 'can only be ended through diplomacy'

Despite the efforts by his critics to kick him out of the SPD, Schröder, 78, remains defiant.

Several days ago, he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that he would not relinquish "opportunities for talks with President Putin."

According to the report, Schröder said he did not believe in a military solution in Ukraine and asked why the focus was on supplying weapons. "The war can only be ended through diplomatic negotiations," he was quoted as saying.

sri/fb (AFP, dpa)

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