Schroeder defends Russian gas pipeline post

13th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 December 2005, BERLIN - Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday defended his plans to join the board of a Russian-German gas pipeline and denied reports the job will pay him 1 million euros (1.2 million dollars) a year.

13 December 2005

BERLIN - Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday defended his plans to join the board of a Russian-German gas pipeline and denied reports the job will pay him 1 million euros (1.2 million dollars) a year.

"There's a lot of nonsense being spread around by politicians and the media," said Schroeder in remarks to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

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 while in office.

The former chancellor said that news reports he would earn between 200,000 euros and 1 million euros a year "had no basis in fact" and that these sums were "clearly too high".

"Money has not even been discussed yet," said Schroeder, adding that he viewed it as "an honour" to work on the pipeline project which is widely viewed as crucial to future German energy security.

Schroeder's move has led to 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 jobs.

But after days of criticism, including from members of his own Social Democrats (SPD), the party's chairman, Matthias Platzeck, sought to cool anger and defended Schroeder as "a person of integrity".

Another SPD member, former Hamburg Mayor Henning Voscherau, also staunchly backed the former German leader.

"Our country has few natural resources and practically every job here depends on imported energy," said Voscherau in a commentary published by the newspaper Die Welt, adding:" Isn't energy security the one issue that (all German parties) have agreed upon over the past quarter century?"

"So let's end this false sense of morality and end this bigotry. Schroeder's appointment to the post is an honour to him and useful for us. So let's be happy for him - and for Germany," said Voscherau.

Schroeder will head the supervisory board of the pipeline consortium, which is controlled by the giant state-owned Russian energy group, Gasprom.

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 is expected to 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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