Gerhard Schröder resigns from Rosneft

Gerhard Schröder resigns from Rosneft

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Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Friday resigned from his board position with Russian state energy giant Rosneft, amid growing calls in Europe to sanction him unless he gives up his paycheck from Russia.

Rosneft said that both Schröder and fellow German board member Matthias Warnig had informed the company that it was “impossible” for them to continue in their roles. The company said they had been “invaluable” in implementing large scale infrastructure projects in Russia and Germany.

Pressure has been mounting on Schröder, who took up his $600,000-a-year position at Rosneft in 2017, over his continued business ties to Moscow. He is also chairman of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream, the company that built the now sheltered controversial gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. That was a position he took up just three weeks after leaving office in 2005.

The former chancellor and friend of Putin’s at the heart of Germany’s Russia struggle

On Thursday, he was stripped of his office and staff, according to a spokesman for Germany’s Green Party. The announcement came one day after representatives from three German political parties said in a statement that the parliament’s budget committee was putting in place a new regulation linking the benefits to which former chancellors are entitled to whether they have any official duties.

Earlier this week, a draft resolution put forth by the four largest parties in the European Parliament, the legislative body of the EU, “strongly” demanded that Schröder resign from Rosneft. It explicitly asked the former German leader to follow the footsteps of several other European politicians who have exited Russian firms in light of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Markus Ferber, one of the drafters of the resolution and a center-right member of the European Parliament, told Reuters that holding a senior position at a major state-controlled company means Schröder is “de facto closely cooperating with Russia.”

His proposal is also intended to dissuade Schröder from taking a board position at Gazprom, another key Russian energy company, he added. Ferber has also advocated for adding Schröder to the EU sanctions list and freezing the former German leader’s assets. Schröder could not be immediately reached for comment.

The former chancellor has become the personification of Germany’s deep energy ties with Russia — a relationship Berlin is now trying to scale back. Schröder was instrumental in facilitating the Nord Stream 2 deal, a natural gas pipeline that cost $11 billion and connects Russian fields directly to Germany. It was a sticking point for Berlin until the current chancellor, Olaf Scholz, halted certification of the project two days before the war in Ukraine began.

In March, Scholz, who is in the same party as Schröder, told a local media outlet that severing ties with Russian firms is the correct course of action. Schröder’s obligations to Germany, Scholz said, did not end when he left office.

Public outrage directed at the former chancellor has increased since Feb. 24, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of his invasion. Schröder has chosen not to distance himself from the Kremlin leader even as the Russian military faces international condemnation over atrocities committed against Ukraine’s civilian population.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Schröder called Putin’s war a mistake and said the killing of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha must be investigated. But he declined to disavow his friendship with Putin and said the bloodshed carried out in Bucha was not ordered by the Russian leader.

Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

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