"The issues to be discussed at the European Council meeting in Brussels tomorrow," said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday during his government statement ahead of his trip to Brussels, "reflect the seriousness of the situation into which Putin has plunged our continent". Reviewing the year 2022 so far he said that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine was a turning point "for the whole of Europe and the rest of the world". The Federal Chancellor underlined the fact that the Ukrainians were standing together, and that Germany and Europe would stand resolutely by their side.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin, he continued, had made a fundamental miscalculation, and underestimated the unity of Europe and the democratic West. "Putin has underestimated the courage of Ukrainians and failed to understand Europe, us, the nature of our democracies, and our will to resist great power delusions and imperialism. That is the real story of this year."
Support for Ukraine in the winter months
This support for Ukraine, the Federal Chancellor said, would continue "and for precisely as long as necessary". Not only would the European Council be discussing how the European Union can help Ukraine get through the winter, he added, but also what financial resources the country would be needing in the coming year. The EU, he said, would be providing Ukraine with a further 18 billion euros in exceptional financial assistance for 2023. "Work on the ‘Marshall Plan’ for the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine is also progressing," Scholz continued.
Boosting Germany, Europe, and NATO’s defences
"The Russian offensive war challenges the internal cohesion of the European Union,” Federal Chancellor Scholz said, adding that "together and standing strong, we have also taken up this challenge.” This is why, he continued, Germany, Europe, and NATO had realigned their defence policies in recent months to which end Germany had made numerous efforts. By way of example, the Federal Chancellor referred to the German missile defence shield initiative as well as the special fund of 100 billion euros, which, he said, enabled "the largest investment in our Federal Armed Forces since their inception.” One thing was certain, said the Federal Chancellor: "All these measures not only strengthen the security of our friends and allies, but simultaneously bolster our own security."
Major progress in energy security
The Federal Chancellor also referred to the major progress made in relation to energy security. Nothing, he said, demonstrated this more clearly than the opening of the first floating terminal for liquefied natural gas in Wilhelmshaven next Saturday, adding that further terminals would also be taken into service shortly. Scholz thanked all the workers and engineers who had achieved this great feat in record time. "It is also thanks to them that we will get through the coming winter in good shape."
Above all, together means together in Europe
The Federal Chancellor emphasised the fact that Europe had never collaborated so closely on energy issues and that agreement had been reached on common energy-saving goals, on mitigating high electricity prices, and that the Member States also wanted to pool their resources for the purchase of gas.
However, he also stressed the fact that there are no simple short-term solutions. "For example," he said, "we cannot manipulate prices in a way that would result in too little gas being delivered to Europe". This insight, he added, was also important for the agreement on which the EU Energy Council was still working on Tuesday. "I’m certain," he continued, "that we will reach a good, pragmatic agreement".
Putin's war is accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources
Scholz drew attention to the transition to renewable energy sources stating that it was now clear that renewables were not only needed to deal with the climate crisis, but also for our security: "to ensure that we will never again become too dependent on specific suppliers". It was for both of these reasons, he said, that the Federal Government was working on making Europe the first climate-neutral continent and was committed to achieving the ambitious targets set out in the EU's “Fit for 55” package.
Putin's war is breathing new life into the process of EU enlargement
Once again, Scholz stressed the importance of Bosnia-Herzegovina also becoming an EU candidate country this week ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels: "It is in the interests of Germany and the rest of Europe that the Western Balkans accede to the EU," he said, explaining that he was particularly eager to see progress in the accession process of the six Western Balkan states. Whilst the conflicts of the past were not over, he added, they could be overcome: "Progress towards EU membership is possible." Back in June, the prospect of EU membership was also opened up to Ukraine, Moldova and, potentially, Georgia.
Similarly, he continued, it was in our interest for Croatia to become part of the Schengen area starting in 2023 and, albeit this did not yet apply to Romania and Bulgaria, they would quickly follow. "We must continue to make progress in this direction," said Scholz.
Europe's role in the world of the 21st century
Prior to the first EU-ASEAN Summit, the Federal Chancellor pointed out the great importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "Collectively, the ten ASEAN states have a population of 670 million, whereas there are 450 million of us in the EU," said Scholz. "By themselves, these enormous numbers show that the concept of a bipolar era in which everything revolves around the USA and China fails to reflect the global reality."
At the same time, however, said Scholz, there was no question about the USA's central role for Europe. "We Europeans share many common values and interests with the USA, our most important global partner.”
However, he added, China was also important as an economic and trading partner for Europe. Even if people looked at the facts differently, he said, "decoupling" or even "deglobalisation" was not the right way to go. Germany and Europe are committed to a rules-based international order. The Federal Chancellor said that he agreed with President Xi that "even threatening to use nuclear weapons is inadmissible" and that "the use of nuclear weapons would cross a red line that humanity has rightly drawn".
The world will be multipolar in the 21st century
Germany and the rest of Europe, Scholz continued, still needed "close and trusting partnerships" with many regions of the world to find solutions to major global issues such as climate protection, pandemics, biodiversity, and digitalisation, which, he added was especially true for emerging nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
This was why, the Federal Chancellor explained, he had used the entire German G7 Presidency to promote the establishment of an open and collaborative international climate club in order to advance global climate protection. "The fact that the G7 formally adopted the framework of this club earlier this week is a gratifying conclusion to our Presidency," said Scholz. He added that other countries would now be approached in short order to ensure that the climate club would result in united efforts to combat climate change.
Concluding his speech, Scholz once again returned to Russia's appalling war of aggression, under which no one was suffering as much as the Ukrainians. He affirmed that "we stand resolutely by their side".
However, he continued, the war had also presented Germany with some enormous challenges. The good news, he said, was that we had accepted these challenges and together, Germany had chosen the right path: "We stand together and leave no one behind."