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POLITICS

Germans must not fear political uncertainty: president

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged citizens not to fear the uncertainty of the country's months-long political stalemate, speaking in his traditional Christmas address.

Germans must not fear political uncertainty: president
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel won elections three months ago without a clear majority and has since been struggling to form a new coalition, while staying on as head of a caretaker government. 

Steinmeier said that “not everything unexpected must scare us, and that includes the formation of a government which, in an unusual way, is dragging on”.

“I assure you the state is operating according to the rules which our constitution has for a situation like this one, even if these rules were not needed in the past few decades,” said the head of state in his pre-recorded speech on national TV. “Therefore, we can have trust,” he said. 

Merkel's hopes for a fourth four-year term were complicated when initial talks to build an alliance between her conservative bloc, the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens collapsed in November.

She is now hoping for a re-run of her current left-right “grand coalition” with the second biggest party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is however reluctant to govern in her shadow again after a dismal election result.

SPD leader Martin Schulz, facing a sceptical party base, has only agreed to “open-ended” talks that could also lead to the toleration of a Merkel minority government — an option she however rejects.

In the end, the labour party's rank-and-file members will get to vote on whether to enter into a new coalition with Merkel — or head into opposition, as Schulz had vowed to do straight after the September election loss.

READ ALSO: Man rams car into German party HQ in 'suicide attempt'

POLITICS

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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