Muentefering questioned over Schroeder job
15 December 2005, BERLIN - Deputy Chancellor Franz Muentefering defended Thursday the appointment of former German leader Gerhard Schroeder to chair a controversial Russian-run company that is building a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea.
15 December 2005
BERLIN - Deputy Chancellor Franz Muentefering defended Thursday the appointment of former German leader Gerhard Schroeder to chair a controversial Russian-run company that is building a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea.
Work began last week on the underwater link, which has drawn strong criticism from Warsaw because it bypasses Poland.
Muentefering said the new government led by Christian Democrat Angela Merkel had not discussed the Schroeder appointment, so it had no stance on the matter. But his personal view was that Schroeder would do a "good strategic job" for Germany while on the board.
In an embarrassing setback for the government, the opposition Free Democrat Party (FDP) had earlier defeated the government in a show of hands on whether Muentefering should be summoned to the Bundestag.
Most of the 61 FDP members were in the 614-seat Bundestag chamber, whereas the government benches were mainly empty at the time, so the FDP and opposition Greens succeeded in forcing through the summons.
The leader of the FDP caucus, Wolfgang Gerhardt, accused Schroeder, who is no longer a member of parliament, of abandoning principles he had upheld as chancellor, and said the pipeline company would act in the interests of the Kremlin and not of Germany.
Muentefering, who is the ranking Social Democrat in the coalition government and was Schroeder's key lieutenant before the change of government last month, replied that the pipeline was not only in Germany's interest but also that of the Netherlands and Britain.
Alexey Miller, chief executive of Russian energy group Gazprom, defended Thursday the job offer to Schroeder.
In an interview published in the mass-circulation German daily Bild, he said Schroeder's prestige could "contribute a lot to ensuring this project is a success".
Miller said the offer had been made to Schroeder last Friday and remuneration had not yet been discussed "in any form".
Construction of the Northeast European Gas Pipeline from Russia to Germany officially began last week.
Subject: German news