Berlin 'didn't know about' Schroeder's gas post

12th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 December 2005, BERLIN - The German government was kept in the dark over former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's surprise decision to join the supervisory board of a major Russian-German natural gas pipeline project, Economics Minister Michael Glos admitted Monday.

12 December 2005

BERLIN - The German government was kept in the dark over former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's surprise decision to join the supervisory board of a major Russian-German natural gas pipeline project, Economics Minister Michael Glos admitted Monday.

Schroeder, who only left office last month, has provoked a political storm for accepting the post given his staunch backing of the Baltic Sea pipeline which has deeply angered Poland and the Baltic states.

Glos, who was in Russia last week for the symbolic welding of the first pipeline section, said he was only informed of Schroeder's role on his arrival in Moscow.

"I have the impression it came as a surprise for everyone," said Glos in a news briefing.

Glos declined to comment on whether he thought Schroeder had done the right thing in taking the job, saying only: "I find the whole thing unusual."

Responding to media reports that Schroeder will earn 1 million euros (1.2 million dollars) per year, Glos said: "This is none of the German government's business."

Schroeder's move has fuelled growing calls for a code of conduct for politicians which would impose a period of time after leaving office before they can take top-level business posts.

Schroeder will head the supervisory board of the pipeline consortium, which is controlled by the giant state-owned Russian energy group, Gasprom, which Glos described as "a bit of a state within a state".

Gasprom has 51 per cent of the shares while Germany's E.ON-Ruhrgas and BASF together have a 49 per cent stake in the 4 billion euro pipeline.

Due to go onstream in 2010, the jointly-built North European Gas Pipeline will eventually connect gas fields in western Siberia with western European markets, including Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Britain.

Poland the Baltic states are upset that the pipeline does not cross their territories and fear they could be cut off from gas supplies. The pipeline will run from Russian territory under the Baltic Sea and make landfall on the eastern German coast.

During his seven years as leader of Europe's biggest economy, the 61-year-old Schroeder forged close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another German and long-time Putin friend, Matthias Warnig, has been appointed chief executive of the pipeline consortium.

Warnig, who has been head of the Russian offshoot of the German bank, Dresdner Bank, is reported to have been an officer in the Stasi, the East German secret police.

He is reported to have met the Russian president during the late 1980s when Putin was based in what was then communist East Germany as a Soviet KGB officer.

The Gasprom pipeline job is the second major corporate post that Schroeder has accepted since his demise as Chancellor.

The leading Swiss newspaper publisher Ringier has already announced that Schroeder is to become a consultant.

DPA

Subject: German news

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