Gerhard Schröder: Ex-Chancellor is not allowed to attend the SPD party conference

Gerhard Schröder: Ex-Chancellor is not allowed to attend the SPD party conference

The party exclusion procedure against Gerhard Schröder has failed. Nevertheless, he is ostracized by the SPD leadership. The former chancellor and party chairman is not wanted at the next party conference.

The SPD leadership will not invite the former German Chancellor and party leader Gerhard Schröder to the federal party conference in December. “We will keep it the way we did it now at the celebration of the 160th anniversary of the SPD,” said party leader Saskia Esken of the German Press Agency.

Unlike other ex-party leaders, Schröder, who was criticized for his closeness to Russia, did not receive an invitation to the anniversary ceremony last Tuesday at the party headquarters in Berlin.

It is also a tradition at party conferences for former party leaders to be invited. After his chancellorship, Schröder attended some conferences of the highest party body and even spoke as a speaker – most recently in 2017 in support of the then chancellor candidate Martin Schulz. At that time, the 79-year-old had already been a lobbyist for the Russian energy industry for twelve years. For a long time, however, this did not bother many of those responsible in the party.

Saskia Esken only sees Gerhard Schröder as a businessman

At the upcoming party conference from December 8th to 10th in Berlin, Schröder will have to remain outside. “I can no longer recognize the former chancellor and former party chairman in Gerhard Schröder. I see him as a businessman who pursues his business interests,” says Esken. The party conference – the first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine 15 months ago – will deal, among other things, with the realignment of the SPD’s foreign policy and thus also with Russia policy.

Schröder was chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and party leader from 1999 to 2004. After being voted out of office as head of government, he worked for Russian energy companies for many years and is still considered a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, from whom he did not break away even after the Russian attack on Ukraine. A few weeks after the war began, Schröder even visited Putin in Moscow – allegedly to mediate.

Most recently, Schröder caused a stir when he appeared with his wife Soyeon Schröder-Kim at the reception at the Russian Embassy in Berlin on May 9 to mark the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Among the guests were ex-SED Secretary General Egon Krenz and AfD boss Tino Chrupalla.

Party exclusion process failed

After the Russian invasion, the party leadership repeatedly distanced itself from Schröder and declared him isolated in the party. However, a party exclusion procedure initiated by 17 party branches failed.

In the reasoning of the arbitration commission of the Hanover party district, it was said that it “cannot be determined with sufficient certainty” that Schröder violated statutes, principles or the party rules or was guilty of an dishonorable act. In mid-May, the Federal Arbitration Commission rejected applications for an appeal. The process is now complete, Schröder may keep his party book until further notice.

Schröder coffee cups are no longer available

However, the party leadership has long since begun ostracizing the former party leader, who was once celebrated for his “no” to German participation in the Iraq war. On the SPD’s website, he is no longer counted among the “big social democrats”. His name was removed from the list of 33 personalities from the party’s 160-year history.

The “Gerhard Schröder” coffee mug was removed from the range of the SPD online shop in April last year. “Currently not available” is what it says at the point where it was once offered.

No Schröder pictures in the Willy Brandt House

When asked whether pictures of Schröder still hang somewhere in the Willy-Brandt House, the SPD party headquarters in Berlin, party leader Esken said: “We have a beautiful art collection in the Willy-Brandt-House that adorns our offices and corridors. Gerhard I haven’t met Schröder yet.”

At the celebration of the SPD’s 160th birthday, Schröder did appear briefly in a film on the history of the party. In the speeches, however, he played almost no role. Only Chancellor Olaf Scholz once mentioned the name of his predecessor – when it came to the tension between the SPD’s programmatic claims and pragmatism.

The party leadership is increasingly annoyed by the discussion about Schröder. She would like to end it entirely. “The SPD has important tasks as a party and as a leading coalition partner – we continue to develop our program and get involved in the work of the coalition,” says Esken. “In this respect, we have more important things to do than talk about Gerhard Schröder.”

Source: Stern

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