European Parliament presses EU to sanction figures like Gerhard Schröder over Russia ties

The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the EU to sanction Europeans still on the boards of prominent Russian firms — a clear shot at figures like former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Austria’s ex-Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

The measure — approved by a show of hands — welcomes the EU’s “justified sanctions” against Russia while imploring it to go further. It calls on the EU 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.”

So far, the EU has avoided such a move, even as it has gone after large swathes of the Russian economy and frozen scores of Russian assets overseas.

While Schröder and Kneissl are not explicitly named in the text, the measure is not subtle about who it is targeting. The resolution calls on high-profile Europeans to “do the same” as former European leaders like Austria’s Wolfgang Schüssel, Finland’s Esko Aho and France’s François Fillon — all of whom resigned from senior roles at Russian companies following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Schröder and Kneissl, meanwhile, have become visible examples of national politicians who have not withdrawn from lucrative positions with Russian firms since the war began.

Schröder, German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has been under pressure to both quit his jobs with Russian energy companies and to publicly denounce Russian leader Vladimir Putin — neither of which he has done.

The German politician has strong ties to Moscow going back to his time in office — he was named board chair of Nord Stream, the company overseeing the controversial gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany, just weeks after leaving the chancellorship. Schröder reignited fury last month when he told the New York Times he doesn’t “do mea culpa” and dismissed the notion that Putin was behind the massacre of Ukrainians in Bucha, near Kyiv.

German MEPs from Schröder’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the European Parliament did not respond to requests for comment. But senior SPD figures in Germany have called for the ex-chancellor to be booted out of the party. Germany’s governing coalition is also moving to strip Schröder of his state-provided office and staff but leaving him with his monthly allowance.

Similarly, Kneissl, who came under fire for inviting Putin to her wedding in 2018, joined the board of directors at Russian state oil giant Rosneft last year and has yet to renounce her role.

“It is outrageous that Gerhard Schröder continues to get paid for his position in Rosneft,” said Luis Garicano, the Spanish liberal MEP who drafted the proposal, in a statement following the vote. “Being a former Chancellor should not shield him from being sanctioned.”

“Let’s end this impunity,” Garicano added.

Parliament officials said the final text, which dropped a specific reference to Schröder, is a result of a compromise between the center-right European People’s Party, the Parliament’s largest group, and three other political groups, including the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), which includes Schröder’s SPD.

“We made the text stronger and it clearly implies that those who don’t resign should be sanctioned,” one S&D official said.

The resolution also calls on the EU to sanction a list of 6,000 Russians — including MPs and government officials — published by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a group founded by Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader.