German Social Democrats face more heat over Russian energy ties – POLITICO
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Germany’s ruling Social Democrats are under renewed pressure over their ties to Moscow after they were accused of a regional leader’s collusion with Kremlin-backed energy giant Gazprom to undermine US sanctions and spread Russian propaganda.
The focus of the allegations is Manuela Schwesig, a senior member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD and Prime Minister of the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The state was the terminus of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, long championed by Berlin but canceled before it became operational as Russia prepared to invade Ukraine.
The political heat on Schwesig has been growing ever since the Welt-Zeitung documents became available showed Her government worked closely with Nord Stream 2 AG, a Gazprom subsidiary, as it attempted to complete the project despite American sanctions. The documents showed that a company-backed and regional government-backed foundation ostensibly dedicated to environmental causes was a vehicle to circumvent US measures.
The revelations are the latest blow to the image of the centre-left ruling party, which has come under heavy fire in recent years for its close ties to Russian energy interests, even after President Vladimir Putin’s government instigated a war in eastern Ukraine 2014 annexed Crimea.
The policy of relying on cheap gas from Russia was also propagated by long-time conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nord Stream 2 was given the green light in 2015 by a “grand coalition” of the CDU and SPD.
But politics is strongly associated with the SPD – not least because the former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder became a leading lobbyist for Russian energy companies and held high positions in their ranks, including as chairman of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream 2 Ukrainians The government has also criticized German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a staunch SPD supporter and former foreign minister, for his role in fostering close energy ties with Moscow.
Schwesig, long considered a rising star in her party, was another high-profile supporter of Nord Stream 2. She he apologized Saying earlier this month for that stance that “sticking with Nord Stream was a mistake” – but that hasn’t satisfied critics, especially as new details emerged about the extent of their government’s cooperation with the company.
The opposition politician in the state capital of Schwerin called for an investigative committee to investigate the facts, and federal politicians have joined in the chorus of criticism in the past few days.
“The entanglements between the Schwerin state government and the Russian state-owned company Gazprom have always been devastating and must now finally be clarified,” said Omid Nouripour, co-chairman of the Greens from the Scholz federal government. told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“An ‘Oops, that must have been a mistake’ will not be enough,” he said, referring to Schwesig’s apology.
tips for tricks
The documents obtained by Welt apparently showed that senior officials in Schwesig’s government were taking instructions from Nord Stream 2 AG on changes to draft texts and on media talks. They also reportedly show that the company has suggested “tricks” to circumvent US sanctions, such as using the Environmental Foundation to hire people who would actually work to complete the pipeline.
Earlier this year, the German media house T-Online reported that Schwesig has had at least two meetings with Schröder in recent years, about which there are no official records.
The chairman of the Bundestag’s Europe Committee, the Greens MP Anton Hofreiter, also sharply criticized Schwesig, but called for a more comprehensive investigation into the political decisions relating to the pipeline.
“It is a scandal that the construction of Nord Stream 2 was decided just one year after the annexation of Crimea,” Hofreiter told POLITICO.
“The grand coalition’s Russia policy was misguided and needs to be addressed,” Hofreiter continued. “This also includes the connections between the Schwerin state government under Manuela Schwesig and the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. A committee of inquiry is now required for this [at state level].”
The Greens, the FDP and the CDU, all of whom are in opposition in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, want to start such a body next month.
Norbert Röttgen, a prominent CDU member of the Bundestag, even suggested that Schwesig resign on Monday: “If the facts recently reported in the media are correct, then Ms. Schwesig cannot remain in office, that is out of the question,” he told the newspaper group Editorial network Germany.
Schwesig’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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