Gerhard Schroeder criticises Bush in new memoir
26 October 2006By Mike Swanson, dpa26 October 2006
By Mike Swanson, dpa
Berlin (dpa) - Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder returned to the political stage on Thursday when he unveiled his memoirs looking back on seven years at the helm of Europe's largest economy.
"You were a great chancellor," Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said at the presentation ceremony at Schroeder's Social Democratic Party headquarters in Berlin.
Juncker said Schroeder was "the driving force" behind efforts to speed up European unity during his final years in power and called his oft-criticized personal friendship with Russian President Valdimir Putin "a godsend" for Europe's relations with Moscow.
In the 544-page autobiography, entitled Decisions: My Life in Politics, Schroeder describes the rough-and-tumble life of German politics and his relationship with foreign leaders like Putin and US President George W Bush.
Some 120,000 copies of the initial print run of 160,000 were sold or ordered before the presentation. Publishers Hofmann und Campe said the book would soon be translated into eight languages.
The launch was preceded by an unprecedented media blitz which saw excerpts appear in two major national print publications and a prime time television documentary on the ex-chancellor.
In a series of interviews, Schroeder broke with tradition by unleashing a stinging attack on his successor Angela Merkel, who defeated him in a snap election in September 2005.
Schroeder, who admitted to making a mistake in calling the election, also accused trade unions of contributing to his defeat at the polls by failing to back his Agenda 2010 reform programme.
A spokesman for Merkel's Christian Social Union ally accused Schroeder of "putting the boot in," while DGB Trade Union Federation boss Michael Sommer retorted: "We didn't lose the election, you did."
The autobiography, described in the Online edition of news magazine Focus as "544 pages of vanity," was written in longhand by Schroeder in less than 12 months after leaving office.
In the memoirs, he describes "some very pleasant meetings" with the US president despite the men's differing opinions on the war against Iraq.
Schroeder, who served as chancellor from 1998-2005, was a strong opponent of the war and refused to provide military assistance in the venture, souring relations between the two allies.
But the former chancellor said he became uneasy in his relations with Bush because of the tendency of the US president to link religion and politics.
Referring to the Russian leader, Schroeder praised the hospitality shown to him by Putin, who served as a Russian KGB officer in East Germany before reunification.
"I have rarely experienced that my wife and myself were able to build such a warm and uncomplicated relationship to the family of a head of government as we could with the Putins."
Schroeder and his wife Doris adopted two Russian children during the time he was chancellor and immediately afterward, when he became a director of a company owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom.
The former chancellor's reputation has suffered because of his lucrative business activities, and publication of the book has been seen as a welcome opportunity to improve his standing.
Subject: German news