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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

German ex-chancellor Schröder says he won’t join Gazprom board

Germany's former chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said he will not be joining the supervisory board of Gazprom, after a row over his ties to Russian energy giants.

Gerhard Schröder Olaf Scholz
Gerhard Schröder takes part in an event at the launch of Olaf Scholz's biography, "The Way to Power" in December 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

“I gave up on the nomination to the supervisory board of Gazprom some time ago. I have also communicated this to the company,” he wrote in a post on online network Linkedin on Tuesday. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to huge public pressure in Germany for Schröder to turn his back on President Vladimir Putin and to sever his ties with Russia’s biggest energy companies.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who like Schröder is from the Social Democratic Party, has also repeatedly and publicly urged the former leader to give up his Russian jobs.

Fed up with Schröder’s attitude, the German parliament last Thursday decided to strip him of perks, including an office and paid staff accorded to him as a former chancellor.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over links to Russia

That same day, EU lawmakers separately called in a non-binding resolution for sanctions to be slapped on him if he refused to give up on lucrative board seats at Russian companies.

A day later, Russian energy group Rosneft said Schröder will be leaving its board.

Schröder, 78, had been due to join Gazprom’s supervisory board in June – a job that he has now finally said he will not accept.

Schröder, Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as unjustified, but said that dialogue must continue with Moscow.

Gazprom is behind the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which has been halted by Scholz in one of the West’s first responses to the war in Ukraine.

Schröder himself signed off on the first Nord Stream in his final weeks in office.

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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