The district court of Schwerin has imposed a fine on the state-owned foundation for climate and environmental protection MV. It is thus executing a default judgment from the end of April, in which the foundation was obliged to answer extensive questions from a WELT reporter about its “economic business operations”.

This operation served to complete the Baltic Sea pipeline of the Gazprom subsidiary Nord Stream 2 AG despite US sanctions. The foundation’s board of directors, chaired by Erwin Sellering (SPD), refuses to provide information about the details of these constructions. Even the judgment of the district court did not lead to a change of heart in the ex-Prime Minister.

The judge of the responsible civil chamber 3 has now reacted to this with a decision after a request from this editorial team. (Az.: 3 O 82/22 from May 25th) In the worst case, Sellering could even be imprisoned. Literally it says: “The defendant Foundation for climate and environmental protection MV was obliged to act according to a provisionally enforceable default judgment that cannot be carried out by a third party.”

However, the foundation “did not carry out this action”. For enforcement, therefore, “a fine of 5,000.00 euros will be imposed, alternatively in the event that this cannot be collected, one day of compulsory detention for every 200.00 euros.” That would be 25 days.

According to the decision, however, enforcement will be omitted “as soon as the defendant Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection MV fulfills the above obligation” – i.e. the questions of this editorial team have been answered. If this does not happen, there is a risk of further sanctions: “The means of coercion can also be ordered repeatedly.”

The decision of the district court not only strengthens press freedom, but is also an important signal for parliamentary enlightenment: after the summer break, a parliamentary investigative committee in the Schwerin state parliament wants to investigate whether and to what extent the state government of Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) the foundation project has allowed Russian interests to be exploited.

With the establishment of the climate foundation, decided by the state parliament at the beginning of January 2021, Schwesig ignored concerns in the black-red federal government at the time. So she operated from Schwerin from German secondary foreign policy. Although Berlin also advocated the completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline at the time, it criticized the plan to use a foundation as a vehicle to overturn American punitive measures.

It was precisely for this purpose that “economic business operations” began to work on February 1, 2021. The basis for this was a cooperation agreement concluded between the Climate Foundation and Nord Stream 2. Ultimately, the Gazprom subsidiary also financed the business operations to an unprecedented extent.

According to Sellering, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “economic business operations” are being settled. The special ship “Blue Ship” acquired by the foundation is to be sold and a stake in the Rostock company Mar Agency GmbH is to be sold.

WELT wanted to know whether there are plans to give any proceeds to Nord Stream 2 or other Gazprom subsidiaries. That would be sensitive because US President Joe Biden had instructed his administration to impose punitive measures against Nord Stream 2 the day before the war broke out. However, WELT did not receive an answer to these and other questions.

Like the Climate Foundation, several ministries in the Schwesig government are ignoring journalists’ right to information, which is enshrined in the country’s press law. There it says: “The press has a right to information from the authorities.” In fact, both the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Justice only fulfilled their obligations in this regard after the Schwerin Administrative Court had passed the relevant resolutions and the lawyer for this editorial team had filed applications for enforcement.

The Ministry of Justice was legally obliged to inform WELT of the name of the managing director of the “economic business”. On the eve of the ministry’s announcement of the person, the head of the foundation, Sellering, quickly invited selected journalists to a press conference for the following day. There he personally introduced the managing director, a Hamburg management consultant.