Germany set to strip ex-Chancellor’s perks over Russia ties

Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s leader from 1998 to 2005, could lose most of the perks former Chancellors get as early as this week.

Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin
Gerhard Schröder hugs Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Moscow in 2018. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/TASS | Alexei Druzhinin

After leaving office, former German Chancellors are given a permanent office on the premises of the German Bundestag. Further institutionalising their role as elder statespeople of sorts, they are allotted a dedicated staff as well as perks like chauffeurs.

Schröder has maintained such an office since 2005, paid for by the German taxpayer, while also pursuing a lucrative career lobbying the German government for Russian state-owned gas companies.

But now parliamentarians from the ruling ‘traffic light’ coalition government, including the Social Democrats (SPD) that Schröder once led, will move to cut funding for these perks through a motion in the Bundestag’s Budget Committee.

Under the application by the three parties forming the government, Schröder will lose offices and employees paid for by taxpayers at an annual cost of around €400,000.

“The budget committee notes that the former chancellor Schroeder no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office,” said an application due to be put before the committee Thursday.

His office “will therefore be suspended”, said the document seen by AFP.

The opposition Christian Democrats are also likely to toughen any sanctions against Schröder, including a proposal to cut his €6,000 per month pension.

German media reports say the ex-Chancellor will still receive state-funded security.

READ ALSO: Gerhard Schröder: The ex-German Chancellor turned public pariah

After leaving office, Schröder, who led a coalition with his own Social Democrats and the Greens, became a lobbyist for Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom.

Ever since, he has maintained a close personal friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Schröder currently chairs the shareholder’s committee of the now cancelled Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The 78-year-old is also due to join the supervisory board gas giant Gazprom in June.

Even after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Putin was still spotted at Schröder’s 70th birthday party. Since Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Schröder has refused to sever his ties with Russian state-owned businesses.

SPD Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has also called for the Social Democrats to kick Schröder out of the party. Party co-chair Saskia Esken recently confirmed that the party was examining petitions to remove Schröder, while saying that she herself thought he should quit.

READ ALSO: Germany loses patience with ex-chancellor’s Russia lobbying

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Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.