Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, controversial because of his connections to Russia, has been a member of the SPD for 60 years. Not everyone in the party is likely to agree with the decision to honor him.
After months of debate, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is to be honored by the SPD for 60 years of party membership. At the non-public event this morning in Hanover, Schröder will receive a certificate and a pin. The SPD district of Hanover takes over the honor.
Whether Schröder should be honored for his party anniversary was controversial within the SPD. His local Hanover Oststadt-Zoo association considered foregoing the honor. Hanover’s former mayor Herbert Schmalstieg then offered to accept the honor.
Prime Minister Weil not there
According to the SPD district, around 40 guests will take part in the event – including Matthias Miersch, chairman of the SPD district of Hanover and deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group. According to a spokeswoman, Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil will not be there.
The former Chancellor has been criticized for his connections to Russia, particularly since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine last year. Schröder is considered a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics also criticize him for his years of working for Russian energy companies.
Although Schröder has always criticized the Russian war of aggression, he has advocated maintaining relations with Russia and has repeatedly spoken of the Kremlin’s willingness to negotiate.
Since the Russian invasion, the SPD party leadership has repeatedly distanced itself from Schröder and did not invite him to the federal party conference in December. However, a party exclusion process initiated by 17 party branches failed. Schröder was Federal Chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and Prime Minister of Lower Saxony from 1990 to 1998.
Esken: “All rights of a member”
The SPD chairwoman Saskia Esken justified the honoring of the controversial former chancellor. “We didn’t manage to exclude Gerhard Schröder from the party. We also didn’t manage to convince him that he should leave. That was my approach,” she told broadcasters RTL/ntv. “The fact is that he is a member of the SPD and therefore enjoys all the rights of a member – including receiving such an honor for his long-standing membership.”
Schröder, on the other hand, feels misunderstood by some comrades. Schröder recently expressed his disappointment again about his long-time companion during his time as Prime Minister of Lower Saxony and later in the Chancellery, the current Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “I can understand that he is distancing himself from me for state-political reasons, but declaring that he will no longer wish him a happy birthday is not something you do,” the 79-year-old told the “Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung” this week.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Schröder held back from making public statements for a long time. In the past few weeks, the former Chancellor gave several interviews and also commented on topics beyond the Ukraine war and his relationship with the SPD. Schröder accused the SPD of allowing itself to be driven too much by its coalition partner the Greens and of doing too little for education and housing construction.
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