Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder has been forced to defend his appointment as the head of the consortium building a controversial direct pipeline between Russia and Germany, having been bombarded with dissenting voices.

Leader of the German government until last year, Mr Schroder has just revealed that he will be paid E250,000 per year to head the project that will build a new pipeline to transport Gazprom gas straight to German shores.

The proposed new gas vein has caused much consternation in Europe, particularly the former satellite states that are due to lose out on income from not hosting portions of the pipeline on its route west. The controversial north gas pipeline (NEGP) will bypass the likes of Estonia and Poland, instead traveling across the seabed of the Baltic.

Meanwhile, Mr Schroder’s ethics have been called into question due to his acceptance of the role in the venture which is majority bankrolled by Russian state gas outfit Gazprom. The former German chancellor said he could not understand the criticism and that the new pipeline was of huge importance.

The NEGP pipeline is to carry up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, with the UK a possible future beneficiary.