Germany’s ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder is suing the Bundestag to restore the parliamentary privileges it stripped him of in May after he refused to distance himself from Russian president Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war.
Schröder’s lawyer Michael Nagel told the DPA news agency on Friday that the lawsuit had been filed with a Berlin administrative court. In it, the former chancellor said the decision of the Bundestag budget committee to shut down his parliamentary office was unlawful.
“It was asserted that the former chancellor Gerhard Schröder no longer carries out any lasting official duties” but it was “not established what these ‘lasting official duties’ actually are, how to determine if they are being carried out or not and what procedure should otherwise be followed”, the lawsuit argued.
The suit said such decisions “are reminiscent of an absolutist princely state” and should not hold true in a democratic country governed by the rule of law.
Schröder has come under mounting criticism in Germany since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine over his friendship with Putin and his continuing involvement in Russian state-controlled energy companies.
He stood down as chair of oil company Rosneft in May but is still head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, which operates a crucial pipeline under the Baltic Sea bringing Russian gas to Europe.
Schröder has also caused outrage in Germany with his views on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Before Russia’s invasion, he accused Ukraine of “sabre-rattling” for warning about the threat of war.
In April, he told the New York Times he did not think Putin was to blame for the alleged war crimes committed by Moscow’s troops in towns such as Bucha, north-west of Kyiv, saying only “that has to be investigated”.
However, the Bundestag budget committee did not cite Schröder’s roles in Russian energy companies or his attitude to the Ukraine war when it struck off his privileges. The only reason given for the decision was that he “no longer fulfils any obligations arising from his office”.
Officials said privately at the time that they wanted to avoid the impression that the former chancellor was being punished for his controversial opinions.
Before the Bundestag’s decision, Schröder received more than €400,000 a year in taxpayers’ money to cover the personnel costs incurred in running his office. He kept his pension of €8,300 a month, as well as his personal bodyguard.
Senior officials from Schröder’s Social Democrats have repeatedly called on him to quit the party. However, an internal arbitration panel of the SPD this week rejected several applications for him to be excluded from the SPD and said he could remain a member.