The SPD’s Hanover branch opened a hearing to discuss more than a dozen motions from local and regional chapters against Schröder’s ongoing membership, with a decision expected in three weeks.
Schröder has “decided that his financial and personal dependence on Putin is more important than his commitment to the SPD or the legacy of his chancellorship,” senior party member Thomas Kutschaty told the Rheinische Post daily.
Schröder, German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as unjustified but has refused to turn his back on his friend in the Kremlin, becoming an embarrassment to the SPD.
He has also been widely criticised for holding a number of lucrative posts at Russian energy giants, and it was only after much public pressure that Schröder in May gave up his seat on the board of Russian energy group Rosneft.
He later also announced he would not be joining Gazprom’s supervisory board as initially planned.
Germany’s parliament in May removed some of the perks Schroeder was entitled to as an elder statesman, stripping him of an office and staff.
Schröder, 78, has remained defiant and is expected to fight efforts to kick him out of the SPD.
“I will not give up my opportunities for dialogue with President Putin,” Schroeder recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
Legal experts say there are high hurdles for expelling members from the party, and Schroeder will be able to appeal any decision against him.