By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Parliament urged that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder be blacklisted if he does not quit the board of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft in a move also meant to dissuade him from taking a top job at Gazprom.
The draft resolution, which also explicitly mentioned Karin Kneissl, a former Austrian foreign minister under the government of Sebastian Kurz, was backed by the four biggest political groups in the EU assembly.
Critics say Schroeder, a Social Democrat who as chancellor from 1998 to 2005 sponsored the building of more gas pipelines, deepened Germany’s energy dependence on a neighbour that has turned hostile.
Schroeder was not immediately available for comment.
The Parliament “notes that former politicians (..) have recently resigned from their positions in Russian firms and strongly demands that others, such as Karin Kneissl and Gerhard Schroeder, do the same,” the document says.
The text is not binding, but reflects pressure on the EU to act against Europeans seen as being close to the Kremlin.
The EU has agreed to freeze the assets of hundreds of oligarchs and officials linked to the Kremlin, as part of steps against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but has refrained from directly targeting Europeans with top jobs at Russian firms which are seen as supporting the military operation in Ukraine.
The Parliament urges “to extend the list of individuals targeted by EU sanctions to the European members of the boards of major Russian companies and to politicians who continue to receive Russian money.”
“By serving in top positions of Kremlin-affiliated corporations, the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is de facto closely cooperating with Russia,” said centre-right lawmaker Markus Ferber, who helped draft the resolution.
He said the resolution was also an invitation for Schroeder not to take a job on the board of Russian gas giant Gazprom, which is set to decide on its board’s composition on Friday.
A spokesman for the EU foreign policy department had no comment on the resolution but stressed that individual sanctions needed evidence and the support of all 27 governments.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, also a Social Democrat, brushed off suggestions that Schroeder should be put on an EU sanctions list, but welcomed a decision to strip his predecessor of his office and staff in the German parliament.
“This is the reaction that is correct now,” Scholz said at a news conference in The Hague. “I do not think further steps are necessary at the moment,” he said, reiterating his view that it would be best for Schroeder to resign from his posts.
Schroeder is also chairman of the shareholders’ committee of the company in charge of building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia, a project now shelved.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio ; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, John O’Donnell in Frankfurt and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by William Maclean, Hugh Lawson and Leslie Adler)