About a year after former chancellor Gerhard Schröder lost his right to an office and employees, the judiciary is dealing with the case. On Thursday (9.30 a.m.), the Berlin administrative court will examine whether the Bundestag was allowed to withdraw the privileges of the SPD politician. The former Chancellor is suing against a decision by the budget committee to withdraw some of his special rights and to wind down his office. The 79-year-old demands that a former chancellor's office with employees be made available to him again. From his point of view, the decision of May 2022 was unlawful.
A decision by the responsible second chamber is possible on the same day, as a court spokesman said. According to his lawyers, the former chancellor will not take part in the hearing himself. The process is so far unique in German history - and of fundamental importance. According to the court spokesman, the lawsuit puts current state practice to the test. In view of the fundamental importance, it can be assumed that the case will ultimately not be decided in the first instance.
For several decades it has been customary for former Federal Chancellors and Federal Presidents to be given an office after the end of their term of office. This is to serve the completion of tasks resulting from the previous office. The offices were previously made available for life and could exist for decades. In the spring of 2022, however, the coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP generally reorganized the alimony. It now depends on whether the former top politicians actually still take on tasks related to their former office, such as having patronage and giving speeches.
Schröder was chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and party leader of the SPD from 1999 to 2004. Before he was stripped of some of his special rights, he was heavily criticized for his connections to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin – including within his own party. Several of his employees had already given up their posts after the Russian attack on Ukraine. Schröder's connections to Russian corporations or Putin were not mentioned in the motion approved by the budget committee.
After the lawsuit had been filed, the law firm commissioned by Schröder argued that the decision was illegal. It is "claimed that former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder no longer takes care of the so-called "after-effects of official duties". "However, it does not specify what "long-term official duties" actually are, how their perception or non-perception is to be determined and what procedure is otherwise to be followed," the statement continued.
After being voted out of office, Schröder worked for Russian energy companies for many years and is still considered a close friend of Putin. A few weeks after the war began and then again in July 2022, Schröder met with Putin in Moscow. Russia is interested in ending the war, he said afterwards.
Schröder's connections to Russia are a thorn in the side of many in the SPD. Months ago, the party leadership declared Schröder politically isolated. For months, a procedure for a possible party expulsion of Schröder has been going on. It was set in motion by 17 SPD branches. However, in the summer of 2022, the SPD sub-district Region Hannover decided in the first instance that Schröder had not violated the party order.
In contrast, seven SPD branches appealed, which was rejected in March by the arbitration commission of the Hanover district. The two local associations inleutebach (Baden-Württemberg) and Leipzig East/Northeast (Saxony) appealed to the Federal Arbitration Commission against this decision. Their decision on whether to allow the appeal is still pending.