Germany

A Europe Capable of Taking Action in Support of Prosperity and Democracy

"In his government statement prior to the European Council meeting, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised the cohesion and strength of the EU"

March 20th, 2024
Editorial, News from Berlin
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Before attending the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz paid tribute to the strength and cohesion of the EU. It was precisely with this attitude that Europe had shown that it had answers and solutions to the challenges of our time, said Scholz. The Federal Chancellor outlined the EU’s successful joint efforts in supporting Ukraine against the Russian war of aggression that constitutes a violation of international law, as well as in providing mediation and humanitarian aid in the Gaza conflict.

“The European peace project will remain strong”

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz once again referred to a “watershed moment” on Wednesday: after all, he said, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine was nothing short of a negation of the principles of peace and security in Europe. “Borders must not be moved by force,” said Scholz. There had to be a consensus that “you don’t have to be afraid of your powerful neighbour” and that “the law counts for more than brute force,” Scholz stressed. Europe had found the right answer to this, said the Federal Chancellor, and he addressed the aggressors in no uncertain terms: “The European peace project will remain strong in a changing world.”
Comprehensive financial support is an important component of aid to Ukraine: in addition to a financial package totalling 50 billion euros by 2027, the European Council has set up a support fund of five billion euros. Furthermore, windfall profits from frozen Russian state assets in the EU are to be spent on Ukraine’s defence campaign, according to Scholz. “And these funds are to be concentrated on what Ukraine is in most urgent need of right now, namely support for its defence.”

Three principles of support

The top priority at the present time was to expand and stabilise arms deliveries to Ukraine, Scholz said in the Bundestag. He appealed for the expansion of production capacity both in Germany and Europe, as well as in Ukraine itself. The Federal Chancellor once again emphasised the three basic principles of support for the invaded country: “We will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Care would also be taken by all those involved to ensure that NATO did not become a party to the war. “Nor will we accept a dictated peace at the expense of Ukraine.”

Although the brutality of Russia’s war was virtually unparalleled, Scholz said, the repressive Russian system was showing signs of weakness: this meant that the EU’s united support of Ukraine was all the more important, he stressed. “If the Russian President believes that he only has to sit out this war and that we will weaken in our resolve, then he has miscalculated,” said the Federal Chancellor. Rigged elections, persecution of the opposition, exclusion of candidates in the presidential election – none of this was “a sign of strength”, said Scholz.

European Council – On 21 and 22 March, the European Council will meet in Brussels at the invitation of Council President Charles Michel. Over the course of the two days, the main topic of discussion will be continued support for Ukraine on the part of the EU and the member states, as well as the situation in the Middle East. EU leaders will also address the topic of security and defence, with a particular focus on the defence industry. Another issue under discussion will be the potential opening of membership negotiations with Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while other matters on the agenda include migration and a common strategy in migration and asylum policy.

Prospects for a two-state solution

In addition to the war in Ukraine, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz also addressed the war in Gaza in his government statement, sending out a clear message that Germany stands by Israel’s side as a friend. The Federal Government continues to call for a longer-term ceasefire in this conflict so that more humanitarian aid can be provided. “What must now be achieved as quickly as possible is a somewhat lengthier ceasefire in which the hostages are released and the bodies of those who have died can be handed over,” said the Federal Chancellor. More humanitarian aid had to reach Gaza during this time, said Scholz.
The Federal Chancellor stated in the Bundestag that the aim of the Federal Government, the European Union, the USA and many others was to pursue the prospect of a two-state solution. “A clear sense must now emerge of how a future can be constructed for the peaceful coexistence of Israel and a Palestinian state.” In order to achieve this, however, the Palestinian self-government had to be urgently reformed too, said Scholz. The Federal Chancellor lamented a blatant lack of legitimisation here, given that no elections had been held for 17 years. There was still a long way to go to achieve this goal, said Scholz. “Although I sense that the prospects of this happening are more realistic now than they have been for a long time, progress on this matter is still far from certain,” he noted.

Closer cooperation on armaments and defence

The numerous challenges of recent years have also demonstrated the limits and shortcomings of the European community. Federal Chancellor Scholz has repeatedly presented his ideas for the EU of the future, and he addressed the key reform points once again on Wednesday. In addition to closer cooperation on armaments and defence, Europe had to be more competitive, said Scholz. He praised the reduction of bureaucratic requirements by a quarter as being an important step, but he said he still saw room for improvement in this area at European level.
In a world with a total population that would soon reach 10 billion, Europe’s role had to be a strong and effective one, said the Federal Chancellor. “Only Europe can give us the strength and power we need to defend prosperity and democracy in the world of the future.”

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News from Berlin