German ex-chancellor sues parliament

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Gerhard Schroeder seeks to get back funding for his office that was withdrawn amid a row over his ties to Russia

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has launched a legal bid to get back funding for his office and staff. The privileges were withdrawn in May by the Bundestag’s budget committee, his lawyers told broadcaster NDR on Friday.

Since the launch of Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine, Schroeder has been fiercely criticized for his work with Russia. His perceived close relationship to Moscow, however, was not mentioned by the budget committee when it passed the motion to strip him of some privileges. Officially, the new rule, which can be applied to other former chancellors, states that funding will be based “on the ongoing obligations from the office” rather than on the status of the recipient. Schroeder’s lawyers filed a lawsuit on Thursday with the Berlin Administrative Court arguing that “the decision to deprive former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of his staffing is contrary to the rule of law.”

In an interview with NDR, one of the legal team stressed that Schroeder was not even given a chance to present his arguments to the committee or to talk to its chairman Helge Braun. This represents “a clear violation of human dignity,” the lawyer said.

In a statement, sent to the DPA news agency, the legal team further explained that the Bundestag committee had claimed that Schroeder no longer takes care of the so-called “after-effects of official duties.”

“However, it is not specified what ‘after-effects of official duties’ actually are, how their perception or non-perception is to be determined and what procedure is to be followed,” the statement read.

Such decisions are reminiscent of an “absolutist princely state” and should not take place in a democratic country, the lawyers emphasized.

Last year, Schroeder’s office and travel expenses amounted to more than €400,000 ($412,000). The 78-year-old continues to receive a pension of €8,300 as well as personal security protection.

Earlier this week, Schroeder, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005, scored an important victory: The Hanover arbitration commission of the Social Democratic party ruled that his work with Russian state-owned companies had not violated its charter, and he avoided expulsion from the party. However, Lower Saxony’s SPD leader Stephan Weil told media that while the commission’s decision should be respected, it does not change the party’s stance.

“For us it is clear: Gerhard Schroder is politically isolated with his positions in the SPD,” Weil claimed.

Amid pressure over his ties with Russia, Schroeder stepped down from his position on the board of Russian oil giant Rosneft and declined a nomination for a position on Gazprom’s board.

However, last month the former chancellor made it clear that he would still use every opportunity to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “diplomatic solution,” in his opinion, is the only way to end the Ukrainian conflict.

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