German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his speech at the Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) on Monday. Petr David Josek (AP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz envisions a Europe that is more united, more autonomous and stronger to face the challenges posed by Russia and China. The war in Ukraine, he assured this Monday in a speech of great geopolitical significance at the Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic), can be an opportunity to carry out the reforms that the European Union requires to advance. “We need a geopolitical, sovereign and enlarged EU,” Scholz stressed in a speech lasting more than 50 minutes that recalls the request for the “refoundation” of Europe that French President Emmanuel Macron made in another memorable speech five years ago, also in a university, the Sorbonne in Paris.
Faced with a war that represents “an attack on the European peace order”, the German chancellor believes that Europe “must ensure its independence and stability abroad and reposition itself internally”. And on this path, Germany’s role will consist of seeking solutions with its neighbors and “deciding together”: “I want an EU of equal members,” Scholz pointed out. “When, if not now, will we create a sovereign Europe that can hold its own in a multipolar world? And who, if not us, could protect and defend the values of Europe? ”, He abounded.
The speech, widely quoted throughout Europe, proposes concrete reforms. Scholz believes that the EU should start taking decisions by majority, rather than by consensus, as it is now, on some issues, as a first step towards a future enlargement of the bloc to the east. He gave as an example issues “in which it is important to act with one voice”, such as sanctions policy or human rights. The chancellor defends that Ukraine, Moldova, “in the long term” Georgia and the six countries of the Western Balkans “belong to the free and democratic part of Europe”. “Your membership interests us,” he stressed.
For Scholz, whose vision contrasts with the European policy of his predecessor, Angela Merkel, treaty reform should not be taboo. “The experience of recent months shows that blockades can be overcome. European standards can be changed, in a very short time, if necessary,” she noted. With a more numerous Union, the divergences and the risk of a blockade would be greater, the chancellor acknowledged, so repealing the unanimity principle would make decision-making faster and more pragmatic. Berlin proposes a gradual transition to majority voting in foreign policy and also in fiscal policy.
Strengthening European sovereignty is the second major area of action for Germany, which has seen how its exaggerated dependence on Russian hydrocarbons threatens its economy and the well-being of its population. Among the concrete proposals, Scholz advocated developing a new community air defense system that would be “more effective and profitable” than doing it individually.
The “turning point” (Zeitenwende, in German) that has become the axis of all the interventions of the German chancellor since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, also starred in the speech in Prague. Berlin will invest 100,000 million euros in modernizing its Army, with which “European and transatlantic security will also be strengthened.” The chancellor’s proposal involves deploying these capabilities within the framework of NATO.
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The foreign minister reiterated in Prague his support for Ukraine “as long as necessary” and announced new deliveries of weapons in the coming weeks. He also referred to the reconstruction of the country, which will be addressed at an international conference of experts in Berlin on October 25. “It will be a generations-long effort,” he added.
Scholz also supports Macron’s proposal to create a European Political Community that integrates neighboring states. It would consist of “a regular exchange at the political level” that would take place once or twice a year as a “forum” in which to discuss key issues that affect the entire continent, such as security, energy and the climate emergency.
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