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UKRAINE

Pressure grows on ex-German Chancellor Schröder over Russia links

Part of Gerhard Schröder's entourage quit on Tuesday, according to local reports, adding to the pressure for the former German chancellor to cut his ties with Russian companies.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) talks at an event in Berlin in 2021.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) talks at an event in Berlin in 2021. Schröder is chairman of the board of directors at Rosneft. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

The four members of his office staff who resigned showed they had “more backbone” than the Social Democrat, said Sebastian Brehm (CSU), a senior member of the conservative parliamentary group.

Schröder, who led Germany between 1998 and 2005, had “lost all his moral credibility by clinging to the lucrative posts”, Brehm said.

Meanwhile, the chancellor’s former spokesman, Bela Anda, announced a halt to his regular podcast with Schröder.

The Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, where Schröder is an honorary member, was also applying pressure on him, according to local reports.

Were the chancellor to hold on to his posts Dortmund could “not accept this and would make a decision accordingly”, the club told German daily Bild.

At issue are Schröder’s role as chairman of the board of directors of Russian oil giant Rosneft, as well as his planned ascension to the supervisory board of the gas giant Gazprom in June.

The gas group is behind the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, whose approval was blocked by the German government in one of the West’s first responses to the aggression in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: OPINION – Germany has scuppered Nord Stream 2 but there are questions to answer

Schröder himself signed off on the first Nord Stream in his final weeks in office, and currently heads the pipeline’s shareholders’ committee.

The elder statesman, who has been publicly friendly with Putin, describing him as a “perfect democrat” in 2004, has become a nuisance for Germany’s leadership.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets ex German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in May 2018 during a ceremony marking Putin’s inauguration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets ex German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in May 2018 during a ceremony marking Putin’s inauguration. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Alexei Druzhinin

Current Chancellor Olaf Scholz, from the same party as Schröder, has distanced himself from his predecessor, saying recently “he does not speak for the government”.

Schröder’s roles were “damaging Germany’s reputation”, the co-head of the Social Democrats Saskia Esken said over the weekend.

In a LinkedIn post last week, the ex-leader said the war in Ukraine “must be stopped as soon as possible”, but added there had been “mistakes — on both sides”.

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

READ ALSO: 

“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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