Schroeder pipeline post not yet settled: lawyer

19th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 December 2005, HAMBURG - The position to be occupied by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the Northern European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) Company has not been set yet, according to the Swiss lawyer and trustee of the company. There has been controversy in Germany about whether Schroeder's interests would be in conflict if he became chairman of the shareholder board, as announced during the first weld of the pipeline on December 9 in Russia. The German news magazine Focus was to quote Monday the la

19 December 2005

HAMBURG - The position to be occupied by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the Northern European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) Company has not been set yet, according to the Swiss lawyer and trustee of the company.

There has been controversy in Germany about whether Schroeder's interests would be in conflict if he became chairman of the shareholder board, as announced during the first weld of the pipeline on December 9 in Russia.

The German news magazine Focus was to quote Monday the lawyer, Urs Hausheer, as saying, "I don't know whether Schroeder will really take on the chair after all this fuss." He forecast that the shareholder board would be formed in March.

Hausheer is a lawyer in the Swiss canton of Zug, where the shareholders plan to incorporate NEGP, reportedly for tax reasons, and is currently trustee of the multinational company.

The pipeline is to supply Siberian natural gas via the floor of the Baltic Sea from Russia to the northern coast of Germany.

In the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, Hausheer was quoted Sunday saying it was also unclear whether Schroeder would take a position on the shareholder board or whether a more senior board would be created where he could serve.

The newspaper said there had also been no decision yet on whether the operational and trading headquarters of the company would be in Zug. Hausheer said NEGP earnings would be taxed in Switzerland, but dividends to the shareholders would be taxed in their own nations.

NZZ am Sonntag also contended that Swiss newspaper company Ringier, which is to employ Schroeder as a consultant from January 1, might also benefit from the NEGP link, since the big Russian energy company Gazprom was also one of Russia's biggest media enterprises.

However a Ringier spokesman, Marco Castellaneta, rejected that, saying Ringier was not currently planning to enter Russia. He agreed that since Schroeder was advising Ringier, it was "theoretically" possible that that he could help over Russia as well.

One of the pipeline shareholders, German company Wingas, meanwhile said Schroeder was indispensable to the new company.

"Continental competition for gas has broken out," said chief executive Rainer Seele. "We need this gas." Wingas is a joint venture between Gazprom and the German company Wintershall, a division of BASF.

Seele also said he feared a blockade of the existing pipeline network crossing Ukraine towards western Europe as a result of the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over payments.

"For me as a gas importer, it is absolutely unacceptable to be drawn into this conflict," he said. Ukraine ought not to use western Europe's needs as a means to apply pressure on Russia. He suggested the European Union's commission help settle the dispute.

Russia favours the 4-billion-euro (5-billion-dollar) undersea NEGP through the Baltic, because it will permit direct supply to Germany without having to deal with Ukraine and Poland. Warsaw and the Baltic states oppose the project.

Gazprom is to pay 51 per cent of the capital cost, while BASF and the German E.ON-Ruhrgas group are to pay 24.5 per cent apiece.

Following harsh criticism in Germany over his move, the former chancellor has defended his appointment as "an honour" and underlined the enhanced energy security it would provide for Germany.

Focus was also to report that a German lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against Schroeder in the northern city of Celle, alleging improper benefit from public office.

DPA

Subject: German news

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