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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Pressure mounts on ex-German chancellor Schröder over Russia ties

Pressure is growing inside Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) to expel their former leader and ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder over his apparent refusal to renounce his business ties with Russia.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a hearing in the Bundestag's Economics Committee on the now-shelved Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in July 2020.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a hearing in the Bundestag's Economics Committee on the now-shelved Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in July 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Schröder, who is a lobbyist for Russian gas and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparked fresh outrage following remarks in an interview with the New York Times published this weekend.

Unrepentant over his business links with Russia, he told the newspaper: “I don’t do mea culpa. It’s not my thing.”

SPD co-president Saskia Esken was asked in an interview with state radio whether Schröder should quit the party.

“I think he should,” she replied.

READ ALSO: Gerhard Schröder – the ex-German chancellor turned public pariah

The party was currently examining 14 motions to have its former leader expelled, she told journalists later.

The final decision would come down to the party’s arbitration body, she added.

But she also told journalists: “He makes his money working for Russian state businesses.

“Gerhard Schröder has for many years been a businessman, and we should stop seeing him as a former honourable leader, a former chancellor.”

Thomas Kutschaty, another senior party figure, was equally scathing.

“He has to choose,” he told Welt TV.

“Either he keeps supporting Putin, or he is a member of the Social Democrats, but the two are not compatible.”

Schröder has been under pressure for months now because of his close ties to Russian business and  Putin.

In his Times interview, he made it clear he had no intention of giving up his posts in Russian businesses and that he would only do so if Russia stopped delivering gas to Germany.

He also expressed scepticism over accusations that Putin had ordered the execution of civilians in Ukraine.

On Friday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Russia’s actions in Ukraine might amount to war crimes.

Schröder is president of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, the controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany which for the moment does not have an operating licence.

He also has a senior position with Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is in a muddle over Russia – and it only has itself to blame

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ENERGY

‘Scarce commodity’: Germany raises gas alert level as Russia reduces supply

Germany said Thursday it would raise the alert level under its emergency gas plan to secure supply following the recent reduction of pipeline supplies from Russia.

'Scarce commodity': Germany raises gas alert level as Russia reduces supply

“Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters.

Triggering phase two brings Germany a step closer to the third and final stage that could see gas rationing in Europe’s top economy.

Germany first activated the first stage of the emergency gas plan at the end of March. At the time Habeck said it was a precautionary measure to prepare for any supply restrictions in future. 

READ ALSO: Germany activates emergency gas plan to secure supply

Russia was using gas “as a weapon” against Germany in retaliation for the West’s support for Ukraine following Moscow’s invasion, Habeck said on Thursday. 

Germany, like a number of other European countries, is highly reliant on Russian energy imports to meet its needs.

READ ALSO:

Russian energy giant Gazprom last week significantly reduced supplies via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany by 60 percent due to what the company said was a delayed repair.

The second “alarm” level under the government’s emergency plan reflected a “significant deterioration of the gas supply situation”, Habeck said.

At the “alarm” level, Germany is still considered to be in a position to “manage” the situation for the time being.

Habeck said that households “can make a difference” by saving energy, as Germany launches a campaign to encourage gas saving measures.

Germany has dismissed the technical justification provided by Gazprom, instead calling the move a “political decision”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday there was “no double meaning” in the supply decision.

“Our German partners are well aware of the technological servicing cycles of a pipeline,” he said.

“It’s strange to call it politics.”

In recent weeks, Gazprom has stopped deliveries to a number of European countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands.

German gas stores just under 60 percent full

Germany’s Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) said the second stage means that the security of supply is still guaranteed, but the situation is tense.

“The reason for declaring the alert stage is the cut in gas supplies from Russia, which has been in place since June 14th 2022, and the continuing high price level on the gas market,” said the Ministry in a statement.

The Ministry said that gas storage facilities were currently at 58 percent. But there are concerns over the reduction of gas deliveries from Russia via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

“This means that there is currently a disruption in gas supply, which is leading to a considerable deterioration in the gas supply situation; it is therefore necessary to declare an alert stage,” said the Ministry.

Germany has mandated that gas storage facilities be filled to 90 percent ahead of the European winter this year to mitigate the risks from a supply cut.

The country has managed to reduce the share of its natural gas supplied by Russia from 55 percent before the invasion to around 35 percent.

It has also sought new sources of supply, and accelerated plans to import gas into the country by sea in the form of LNG.

What is the emergency plan?

Germany’s gas emergency plan, which is based on a 2017 EU regulation, has three escalation levels – the early warning stage, the alert level and the emergency level.

According to the law, the early warning stage should be declared if there are “concrete, serious and reliable indications that an event may occur which is likely to lead to a significant deterioration of the gas supply situation and is likely to trigger the alarm or emergency stage”.

At the third “emergency” stage, the government intervenes in the market to divvy up limited supplies. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany has urged households and businesses to cut back on gas

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