German party fails again to expel ex-chancellor over Putin ties

AFP , Thursday 2 Mar 2023

Members of Germany's ruling Social Democrats (SPD) have failed in a last-ditch bid to expel former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder over his close ties to Russia, the party said on Thursday.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, then newly elected chairman of the board of directors of Russia s oil giant Rosneft, speaks at a briefing in Saint Petersburg. AFP


The SPD's Hanover branch has rejected an appeal by several other local party chapters against a decision last year to allow Schroeder to remain in the party.

The appeals commission upheld a ruling in August by the Hanover chapter that Schroeder, whose party membership falls under its umbrella, was "not guilty of a violation of the party rules, as no violation can be proven against him".

Schroeder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has refused to turn his back on Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

His stance has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The party executive on Thursday said it had "taken note" of the decision in Hanover.

"This legal decision does not change the fact that Gerhard Schroeder is politically isolated in the SPD with his positions on Russia," it said.

In an interview with Stern magazine, Schroeder himself said he was "not surprised" by the decision, calling it "legally solid" and "politically consistent".

The SPD branches seeking Schroeder's expulsion could in theory still appeal to the party's national arbitration commission.

However, it is considered unlikely that another appeal will be allowed after the two decisions in Schroeder's favour.

Schroeder was widely criticised after Russia's invasion of Ukraine for refusing to condemn Moscow as well as for lding a number of lucrative posts at Russian energy giants.

It was only after much public pressure that he gave up his seat on the board of Russian energy group Rosneft last year.

Germany has removed some of the perks Schroeder was entitled to as an elder statesman, stripping him of an office and staff.

The 78-year-old, who was the immediate predecessor to Angela Merkel, met with Putin in Moscow last July.

In an interview after the visit, he claimed Russia wanted a "negotiated solution" to the war -- comments branded as "disgusting" by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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