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Russland St Petersburg - Gerhard Schröder
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/P. Kovalev

Former Chancellor Schröder: 'Let's get a move on!'

Jon Shelton
December 21, 2017

The former chancellor told DW that Europe needs a stable Germany urging his SPD party to join Chancellor Angela Merkel in a grand coalition. He also said the right approach to Russia was cooperation not confrontation.


'SPD should join grand coalition'

As Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) ponders its future, the country waits for a government. Almost three months after federal elections were held on September 24, there is still no sign that Germany will have a government any time soon. This week, however, it was announced that a new round of exploratory talks between the SPD , Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), would take place between January 7 and 12.

Read more: Germany's Angela Merkel and SPD assess chances for grand coalition

One of the SPD's most well-known members, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, told DW he hoped the party would speed up the process of building a government. In the interview, he spoke about the need for European stability and the easing of Russian sanctions.

'Drop the dramatics'

Schröder said the SPD needs to "drop the dramatics and get on with a grand coalition." He also said it was the party's responsibility to convince its members of the necessity of joining forces with the CDU and CSU in order to finally provide Germany with a government. This week the country broke the record for the longest it has gone without being able to form a government.

The SPD has been reluctant to join Merkel again as a junior governing partner due to bad experiences in the past. Schröder said it was imperative that the party quickly move beyond its reluctance, adding that there were no other options for them.

"Europe needs it. Europe needs a stable France, which they got in the form of Macron. And Europe needs a stable Germany. With this in mind, I believe the sensible thing to do is to form a government quickly. And as things stand, the only option is a grand coalition."

Schröder and Putin smiling together
Schröder has come under criticism – even from his own party – for his close ties to PutinImage: H. Hollemann/dpa/picture alliance

Read more: Germany wary of US sanctions against Russia

'No one profits from new elections'

When asked about the possibility of other models, such as one being floated by members of the SPD's left wing calling for the party to cooperate with the CDU/CSU on a transactional basis rather than actually joining a coalition, Schröder replied: "No one profits from playing around with other ideas like the case-by-case cooperation. That won't get us anywhere."

He also added that "no one profits from new elections." The SPD received its worst post-war results in September's election, winning just 20.5 percent of the vote.

Asked about what he thought Germany's stance toward Russia should be, Schröder replied: "Cooperation rather than confrontation. That is the sensible way to go. We need the equivalent of a new policy of détente." He argued for the relaxation of sanctions against Russia as well, saying that they hurt Germany more than Russia.

Schröder, who is a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is heavily involved in the Russian gas industry, has been criticized for those ties, not least of all by members of his own party.  He is currently the chairman of the board at Nord Stream 2 AG, the company behind a controversial new pipeline that is to bring Russian gas to Germany.

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