Pipe It, Gerhard: EU Parliamentarians Shun Ex-Chancellor

By in Brussels

"A clear conflict of interest": Members of the European Parliament say gas executive Gerhard Schröder should keep quiet about Ukraine. Zoom
DPA

"A clear conflict of interest": Members of the European Parliament say gas executive Gerhard Schröder should keep quiet about Ukraine.

Members of the conservatives and the Green Party in the European Parliament want to muzzle Gerhard Schröder. As the executive of a Russian pipeline company, they say, he should keep quiet about his views on the Ukraine conflict.

For the most part, members of the Green Party and conservatives in the European Parliament tend to be archrivals. But when they share a common foe, these two groups can come together with impressive speed. In their crosshairs this week is Gerhard Schröder.

Conservative members of the EU's legislative body enthusiastically sent around a draft of a joint resolution drafted by, among others, Rebecca Harms, the leading candidate for the Green Party heading into May's European elections. As part of a resolution parliament is preparing on the Crimea crisis, the politicians wanted to insert language taking a swipe at the former German chancellor's recent EU-critical remarks concerning the situation in Ukraine.

"The European Parliament regrets statements made by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder about the crisis in Ukraine," the paper reads, "and suggests he should make no public statements about Russia because his relationship with Gazprom, a company that is one of Russia's most important foreign policy instruments, creates a clear conflict of interest."

Of course, the former chancellor is no stranger to controversy, given his post-Berlin career in pipeline politics. He's now the chairman of the board of Nord Stream, the company operating a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany that is majority owned by Gazprom, and is a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin as well. In his recent comments, Schröder claimed that serious crisis management errors and a general lack of understanding of the region on the EU's part have exacerbated the Ukrainian conflict.

At an event on Sunday organized by the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Schröder said the European Commission in Brussels hadn't "understood in the least … that it is a culturally divided country and that one cannot deal with such a country in this way." "I ask myself if it was correct to force a culturally divided country like Ukraine to choose between two alternatives -- an association agreement with the EU or a customs agreement with Russia." He accused the EU of "initial mistakes" that later fueled the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In an interview given to SPIEGEL ONLINE in mid-February, Schröder also accused the EU of one-sidedness in its support for the opposition in Kiev.

'A Campaign to Boost Acceptance for Putin'

"The resolution is a reaction to statements by Gerhard Schröder that I consider to be a campaign to boost acceptance for Putin," Green politician Harms told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Schröder has mixed his role as former chancellor with the political interests of the Russian business community."

On Thursday morning, a spirited debate took place over whether such a resolution would even be permissible given its potential to impede on Schröder's rights as a private citizen. (It wasn't.) Schröder also has plenty of friends in the European Parliament, including Martin Schulz, president of the law-making body, who is, like Schröder, a member of the center-left Social Democrats. Schulz even helped launch Schröder's latest book at a recent event in Berlin. Voices inside Social Democratic Party circles said there was no way they would support the resolution.

In the end, the resolution didn't see the light of day. Members of parliament took it up, but rejected it in a 208:167 vote.

"Regardless what happens, though, it's an embarrassment for Schröder," one German conservative said, doing little to hide his schadenfreude. But perhaps Schröder's detractors shouldn't get too carried away. The mass-circulation daily Bild on Thursday quoted conservative former longtime German chancellor Helmut Kohl of Merkel's Christian Democrats accusing the West, including the EU, of lacking sensitivity in its dealings with Putin. Addressing the crisis in Ukraine, the elderly statesman said there had been "major lapses" by the West in recent years. He added that the "atmosphere of departure in Ukraine is no longer being accompanied by prudence" on the part of the West.

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1. optional
henke.lindholm 03/13/2014
This demonization of Schroeder is anti-democratic, those parliamentarians should know, as they should know that the European Parliament is dominated by lobbyists for private groups. So in this case it comes to hypocrisy. Also going against Russia that's more like a friend to Germany than the western elites and putting all German businesses at risk losing billions of $ for something that Ms. Merkel shouldn't even put her mouth or participates especially because of Germany's past history against Russian civilians in II world war Those same western elites that Germany wants to impress are the same ones that will back fire Germany. By the way Germany put together with the west, though remember the west/so-call friends of Germany are the ones trying to punish Germany over their trade surpluses. Also Germany has no right putting together with the west punishing Russia by freezing Russia’s foreign reserves, banking assets and halting lending to companies. That will really hurt Russia but also will hurt Germany the most than any Eurozone countries they have to think about that and Germany better hope that the US starting to buy more from them since Merkel want to impress the US and makes Germany their number 3 trading partners behind China than instead of number 6. Well other then business Merkel should know that Crimea was part of Russia before the Russian czar gifted it to Ukraine and still makes up most of Russian populations. My point is it's not illegal if Russian wants to annex Crimea it belongs to Russia period.
2. Shroeder is right
joe 03/13/2014
Silencing Schroeder for his "bias" seems a little disingenuous to me. He didn't precipitate this conflict. From the little I read in this article, it sounds like Schroeder knows the situation better than anyone else in Caliphate Europe. It is ironic that the EU, which theoretically exists to prevent future European wars, is itself sowing the seeds of war. The imperialism is not Russian, it is European. The carpetbaggers in Russia were thwarted by Putin but western desperation for those resources is so great that Europe is willing to attempt a dangerous chipping away strategy to get at them. Shame on you all.
3. Was he an I. M., for Russia?
Inglenda2 03/13/2014
It is not easy for Europe and the USA to present a convincing argument against the Russian intervention in the Ukraine. The actions of western armies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Serbia were and are little different to those now being ordered by Putin. Nevertheless the recent comments, of former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, must increase the notion of many political sceptics, that his position as chairman of Nord Stream is an exchange for services rendered to Russia, during his time in parliament.
4. Right to speak - and be scrutinized
stevej8 03/13/2014
Ex-Chancellor Schroeder is a serious figure who is quite entitled to express his general opinion on the matter of international aspects of the Ukraine crisis and relations with Russia, a matter of great importance to him, in a personal sense also, given the early loss of his father in the last war on the eastern front. Of course, given his current position, it is also legitimate to point out a possible conflict of interest. People can then make their own judgements as to the validity of his opinion.
5. Sanctions
antonnussbaumer 03/14/2014
What sanctions were imposed on the US after the invasion of: Cuba,Vietnam , Grenada, Panama and Iraq ?
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