German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder prompted further criticism when he returned to his homeland after being elected as Chairman of Rosneft, the largest oil producer in Russia, on Friday.
Gerhard Schroeder, a Social Democrat who led Germany in the period of 1998 to 2005, faced massive criticism at home in August when he was elected to Rosneft’s board, taking into account Western Europe’s sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rather cold relations with Moscow.
Schroeder was elected by Rosneft shareholders, which is controlled by the state and subject to the sanctions, to its board at a meeting on Friday, and not long afterwards he told at a news briefing that he was pleased to have been elected to be chairman of this company. Igor Sechin, CEO of the company, pointed out to the shareholders that Schroeder was a renowned and reputed politician who had always advocated strategic cooperation between Russia, Europe, and Germany and that he was striving to improve Germany’s relations with Russia.
Schroeder considers President of Russia Vladimir Putin his friend and has criticized moves to put sanctions on Russia. Schroeder mentioned after the vote that he really regretted that there were sanctions. He also added through an interpreter that it was necessary to ease down those sanctions and that he was not among those who support them. He said that from an economic and political point of view, it was important for the whole world to have a stable Russia. The German newspaper Bild, which had already called Schroeder “Gazprom Gerhard”, announced the news of his election as chairman of Rosneft with the headline: “Now he definitively belongs to Putin.”
Schroeder, 73, taking into account his labor market reforms, is already a divisive figure in the center-left SPD. His election as Rosneft chairman in August raised a lot of criticism from Merkel and Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democrats, both claiming they would not take posts in industries after leaving office. Schroeder hit back, pointing out that some of his critics wanted to push the country into a “new Cold War”. He said in an interview that if I had been elected not to the Rosneft board but to Exxon, no one would ever ask about his true motives. He mentioned that Rosneft is the world’s largest oil producer, with important relations with Germany and not the long arm of Moscow. Before the election, Russia’s state TV channels dubbed Schroeder as a long-time friend of the Russian Federation.
Schroeder is currently Chairman of the shareholders’ committee at Nord Stream AG, a consortium founded to build a pipeline carrying Russian Gazprom’s natural gas across the Baltic Sea to Europe. Now, he is Chairman of Nord Stream 2 AG as well, the aim of which is to build another gas pipeline to double the existing gas export volumes.