“In view of the war and the climate crisis, Europe itself is also an issue that must be addressed. This is about peace and freedom, about democracy, safety and security, about prosperity and good life chances and jobs in a climate-neutral future – for all citizens,” stressed Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in his government statement prior to the European Council meeting.
The Federal Chancellor expressed his amazement at the ways in which the challenges of the past year had been overcome together. Germany had made itself independent of Russian gas, oil and coal in just eight months, and completely rearranged its energy supply, he explained. Scholz believes that this shows that “when it really matters, we are capable of a new start, change, quick action and transformation.”
Strengthening Europe’s competitiveness
At the meeting in Brussels, Federal Chancellor Scholz will be discussing European competitiveness with the European heads of state and government. The Federal Chancellor stressed: “Our competitiveness is key to economic success.” Germany’s competitiveness was linked closely to a strong European single market, the Federal Chancellor explained, and he announced that “it is now essential to strengthen the single market that has existed for three decades.”
“Climate-conscious investment and innovation in Europe” were key here, he said, adding that these had to be promoted further. In addition, the Federal Chancellor pointed out that the Federal Government had successfully advocated for more flexible European support schemes which reflected the needs of German businesses. Completing the capital market and banking union and accelerating planning and approval procedures were two further aspects that are vital to a competitive EU, Scholz went on.
Facing the future with green transformation
“We want to get even better at producing, introducing and applying green technologies for the future,” the Federal Chancellor said. Europe had to cooperate also in this context, he added: “also in response to the American Inflation Reduction Act, a climate protection and spending package.” The Federal Chancellor announced that the European Council was going to present new suggestions in the areas of key technologies and raw materials supplies today.
The EU as a union of stability
Federal Chancellor Scholz announced that the progress achieved with regard to reforming the European Stability and Growth Pact would be formalised at the European Council meeting. The Federal Chancellor pointed out: “Stable budgets across Europe are vital if we want to be competitive and successful on the long run.”
Promoting European trade policy
“We cannot reach our ambitious goals on our own, neither in Germany nor in Europe,” Scholz said, adding that this was why he planned to intensify “climate protection cooperation” with states in Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region and to diversify Germany’s economic relations.
The Federal Chancellor announced that he was also going to discuss European trade policy with the European heads of state and government. Scholz stressed the fact that “we need an ambitious, open-minded, strategic trade agenda that is in line with our interests, while also taking the interests of our global partners into account.”
“We are now taking joint precautions”
Scholz will also be discussing the issue of energy with the European heads of state and government. “We can now look ahead with confidence,” the Federal Chancellor stressed. “This time last year, gas storage facilities in Germany were up to 70 percent empty. Nowadays they are more than 60 percent full.” The country made it through the winter in good shape thanks to the three relief packages, the protective shield and the fact that we worked together to reduce our gas consumption in Germany in the past year.
"Building strong new energy infrastructure is key now – also on a European level,” Scholz said. The crisis had shown, he added, that “Europe is strong when we stick together and support each other.” He mentioned the solidarity agreement between France and Germany, the additional gas deliveries from Norway, the Netherlands and France, oil deliveries via Poland and the planned hydrogen pipeline from Spain to Germany as good examples of this. “All of this is European solidarity in practice,” the Federal Chancellor emphasised.
“We are opposing the wrongdoing of the mighty with the power of justice”
The European Council will once again address the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Scholz said it remained the case that “we are supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity – in political, financial and humanitarian terms, and also with weapons. We will continue to provide this support for as long as it is needed.”
Germany supported Ukraine with more than 14 billion euros in the past year, in addition to the German share of the EU aid for Ukraine. One example of this is the direct budget aid that amounts to 18 billion euros for this year.
Together with its European partners, Germany is going to make sure that Ukraine is supplied with weapons, equipment and especially ammunition. The goal of the European Council meeting is to determine further measures to ensure even better, uninterrupted supplies. The EU is also going to maintain the “pressure of sanctions”, currently based on the tenth EU sanctions package. The Federal Chancellor stressed that there could be no room for aggression in violation of international law in the 21st century. “We are resolutely opposing the wrongdoing of the mighty with the power of justice,” Scholz said.
Effective migration policy requires a European approach
“Part of our responsibility in view of this horrible war of aggression is, of course, to provide protection for Ukrainian citizens in the European Union,” the Federal Chancellor pointed out. Scholz highlighted the help and support of all citizens, organisations, institutions, municipalities, districts and communities and thanked all those who have lent a hand.
Reasons for migration are diverse and “the response must be accordingly differentiated,” Scholz explained. He went on to stress that “those who come to Germany to seek protection for humanitarian reasons must be granted such protection.” This also included, he added, that “those who have no right of residence in Germany must return to their home countries quickly.”
The goal of migration policy had to be to reduce irregular migration and to open up legal, regular routes of migration instead, Scholz said. He pointed out that this was also a way to attract “much-needed skilled workers who are urgently needed across the board.” One of the objectives of the skilled labour strategy that was adopted by the Federal Government is to fill these gaps. The Federal Chancellor stressed that “fully exploiting Germany's potential is our top priority”.
Federal Chancellor Scholz rounded off his government statement by making the case for confidence, pointing out that confidence was the result of past achievements. “Those who have mastered difficult challenges in the past, have every reason to be confident,” Scholz said. He added that he was convinced that “we will also succeed in the future – we in Germany, and we in Europe.”