Gerhard Schroeder’s publicly funded office to be closed and the remaining staff reassigned in a context of growing consternation at the former German Chancellor’s refusal to distance himself from President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
It is a custom for all the leaders of Germany to get an office financed by the state when they leave the government, but the three parties that make up the government coalition of present Chancellor Olaf Scholz have approved a parliamentary motion to shut down Schroeder’s.
They made the decision following his refusal to condemn Putin, whom he still considers a personal friend, despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner stated it was unthinkable that “a former chancellor who now openly lobbies for Putin’s criminal regime is still given an office by the taxpayers,” in an interview with Welt-TV.
The German media reported that Schroeder, 78, earns money from jobs in energy companies owned by the Russian state that eclipse the 400,000 euros that the German state spends for the office.
The office will therefore be closed.” Schroeder’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comments. This measure does not affect the monthly pension of 7,000 euros that the ex-chancellor receives.
Schroeder, a Social Democrat like Scholz, is the most closely associated living figure in Germany’s policy of “trade change”, a doctrine that maintained close economic ties was the best way to tame and integrate Europe’s giant eastern neighbour.
But critics say the war in Ukraine is a dramatic illustration of the failure of this policy and blame it on Schroeder, who as chancellor sponsored the construction of more pipelines, for the deepening of Germany’s energy dependency on a hostile neighbor.
Schroeder has always said that his connection to Putin is an essential way to communicate with a man whom the world cannot afford to ignore. A visit to Moscow to plead with Putin to end the war did not yield any obvious results, however, dissatisfaction with Schroeder’s position affected his own closest colleagues: the four employees in his office all asked for new assignments in the days following the start of the war.
All remaining staff will now be tasked with liquidating the office, and its files will be retained for state archives, according to the motion.