Schwesig changes Russia course in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

WWhen everyone talks about a turning point, even in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, it is not without consequences. Manuela Schwesig announced on Monday that as this turning point changes fundamentally, so does her country’s relationship with Russia. The Social Democrat writes that “there was a focus on dialogue and exchange with Russia in business, science, culture and between young people from both countries”. The current development is all the more painful.

Matthias Wysuwa

Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

“Like many others who have been engaged in good cooperation with Russia, I am deeply disappointed and shaken.” And it should have consequences, including for the country’s controversial “Climate Fund”, which is equipped with money from Nord Stream 2, also intended to ensure the completion of the pipeline. Schwesig’s entire statement is a departure from the previous course in Schwerin, a turning point in the Northeast. But shortly after, there is confusion about how exactly to proceed.

The state government had to ease the pressure

Schwesig is actually not on guard at the moment, the Social Democrat has to recover from an operation. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pressure on her and her state government increased. Schwerin had, after all, stuck to Nord Stream 2 for a long time and had a reputation for looking too close rather than too little with a view of Moscow. Not to mention the “Climate Fund”, which provided the country with 200,000 euros and Nord Stream 2 with 20 million.

That way things could not continue after the outbreak of war, it was clear. The first valves were opened to relieve pressure. The state government criticized the attack and supported the federal government’s decision to suspend the certification of Nord Stream 2 until further notice. The “Climate Fund” urged her to stop her work.

But that was not enough, the pressure remained high. When Schwesig tweeted a picture of the state parliament illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Friday night, Andrij Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, accused her of hypocrisy. From Schwerin, however, it is assured that this had no bearing on Schwesig’s recent statement; there had long been talk of the new course.

Already on Saturday, there had been several contacts from the SPD’s headquarters in Berlin with Schwesig’s environment. Apparently with the request, in the light of current developments, to quickly distance itself from the previous line of Russia’s policy, to no longer defend Nord Stream 2 and, in particular, to dissolve the “Climate Fund”. Statements by the foundation’s chairman and former SPD prime minister Erwin Sellering that he would stick to the foundation and its activities in the field of climate protection were seen critically by the party leadership. The SPD in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was urged to put an end to the fund quickly. However, as Schwesig is not currently in charge of the official business itself, the voting took longer.

This Tuesday, there will be a special session of the state parliament on the Russian attack and its consequences for the country. Shortly before, Schwesig himself opened the valve wide to release the pressure.

In her statement, she writes: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a brutal attack on a neighboring country, a clear violation of international law and unjustified. “Russian President Vladimir Putin bears sole responsibility for this.” She thanks Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) for the clear words in the government declaration.

She had already on Sunday called on former SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder to end his “commitment to Russian energy companies” to support the federal government’s efforts. That SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil had recently broken up publicly with Schröder was probably also taken as a signal in the Northeast.

No more Russia days in the Northeast

Schwesig also goes into the relationship with Russia and the consequences of Moscow’s behavior: All the state government’s activities towards Russia would be stopped. There should not be “more Russia days in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the foreseeable future”. The first edition of the economic meeting took place in 2014 despite the Russian annexation of Crimea. One of the speakers was Schröder, and the then Prime Minister was Sellering. According to Schwesig, the “Climate Fund”, which he heads, must not only stop its work, but also “dissolve the fund within the narrow legal possibilities”.

It is also being investigated whether it is legally possible to use the funds provided by Nord Stream 2 for humanitarian purposes. However, it is unclear whether this is possible. In any case, on Monday Sellering was given a message in which he responded to the request to dissolve the fund and use the assets for other purposes; both are “legally excluded”.

He adds: Those who helped get the foundation started need to be aware of “the legal impossibility of their claims”. With the final end of the collaboration with Nord Stream 2, the biggest reservation towards the fund disappears.

In the State Chancellery, no one wants to see any major contrast between Schwesig and Sellering. There are simply difficult fund law issues that need to be clarified. The state government cannot simply decide to dissolve the fund, nor can the fund simply change its purpose. Sellering also writes that the board will address “all legal issues” in the coming days.

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