Former German Chancellor Gags Opponent

Can you imagine the media storm which would result had this concerned Bush, not Schroeder?

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won a court order today upholding a legal injunction to silence a political opponent who criticised his appointment to a top job at the Russian-led gas North European Gas Pipeline company (NEGP).

Guido Westerwelle, leader of the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), had suggested Schroeder acted improperly in accepting the post of supervisory board chairman of NEGP after he had helped to launch the enterprise while in office.

After Schroeder won a gagging order last month, Westerwelle challenged the ruling, citing his right to freedom of opinion.

A court in the northern city of Hamburg rejected Westerwelle’s objection so if the FDP leader repeats his allegation, he could face a fine of up to €250,000 ($300,000).

In passing judgement, the court said that Westerwelle had every right to criticise Schroeder but had been wrong to assert that the former Social Democrat leader had “handed a contract” to Gazprom and then joined the company.

“We interpret the phrase ‘handing a contract’ not as political support, but as a business transaction which the chancellor concluded,” the court said.

However, it was manifestly “not the case” that Schroeder had made a deal with Gazprom, the court said.

“Westerwelle is quite permitted to offer harsh and trenchant criticism of Schroeder’s behaviour, but he is not allowed to do this by making incorrect factual claims,” it ruled.

The law is the law is the law.  But I repeat:  can you imagine how the media would have reacted had Bush behaved in this manner?  To summarise the situation:

While he was chancellor, Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin helped to launch the consortium headed by Russian gas giant Gazprom for a Baltic Sea pipeline to supply gas to Germany, a plan that was heavily criticised by Poland.

In December, less than a month after leaving office, Schroeder accepted the job on the supervisory board of the pipeline consortium.

Precious little in the European press about Germany’s leaders being in hock to Big Oil, or in this case, Big Gas.  Odd that.

Quote of the month:

“I cannot understand this criticism,” Schroeder told a news conference at the headquarters of Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom.

Yeah, it’s a complete mystery.