The Internet platform "FragDenstaat" will not receive any information on possible lobbying activities from the office of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD). This emerges from a judgment by the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court, which is available to the German Press Agency. The judges agreed with the opinion of the Administrative Court of Berlin, according to which the office is currently not manned and therefore cannot process the application. Therefore, the right to information is currently in vain, according to the final judgment.
The former chancellor has been criticized for his commitment to Russian energy companies and his closeness to President Vladimir Putin. That is why the Bundestag has cut the funding for his former chancellor's office and the associated staff positions. Schröder is taking legal action against these decisions.
Among other things, the "FragDenStaat" platform wanted to know what dates the Schröder office had agreed from 2019 to 2022, whether the topics were known and, if so, which of them were related to energy policy, Gazprom, Nord Stream 2 or Rosneft. As long as the office was manned, it stubbornly refused to answer these questions.
In the legal dispute, the Berlin Administrative Court initially denied the platform a general right to information because "FragDenStaat" is not a printed press product. The editor-in-chief of the platform, Arne Semsrott, was not a press representative despite having a journalist ID, according to the press chamber of the Berlin Administrative Court in June 2022. The sponsoring association of "FragDenStaat", the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, then had content from the platform printed in the form of a newspaper. Because of the "new situation", FragDenstaat was entitled to a right to information, the Higher Administrative Court later decided.
There was another loop in the process because the Higher Administrative Court was of the opinion that the platform should not have sued the Federal Chancellery for information about Schröder's lobbying appointments, but the office of the ex-Chancellor himself, which, however, was under supervision of the Federal Chancellery. But it's too late for that now. Schröder's office is "currently suspended on the basis of the decision of the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag of May 19, 2022. According to the plausible information provided by the opposing party, staff are no longer available there and the operation of the office has now been discontinued," it says in the OVG judgment.