“Major partner and dependable friend”

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Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Rome “Major partner and dependable friend”

On a visit to Rome, Federal Chancellor Scholz praised the excellent partnership between Germany and Italy. European unity was, the Federal Chancellor said, “an asset which we can put to good use.” He also stressed that Germany was standing shoulder to shoulder with Italy for the reconstruction of Emilia Romagna.

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Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks to Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy.

The talks between Scholz and Meloni focused on issues of European security, migration and the future of the European Union. 

Photo: Federal Government/Denzel

“Let me start by expressing my condolences for the terrible flooding which has recently taken place in Emilia Romagna,” said Federal Chancellor Scholz at a meeting with the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome on Thursday. Two years ago, Scholz said, Germany had to experience similar pain and mourn the loss of life due to downpours and flooring in the Ahr Valley.

German solidarity with flood-affected areas

“We also know how arduous it is to undo the damage and rebuild the region,” said the Federal Chancellor, who also reassured his Italian counterpart that, “In this difficult time, Germany is standing shoulder to shoulder with Italy.”

Over 400 twinned towns and cities

Scholz pointed out the close ties between Germany and Italy, which he described as a “major partner and dependable friend.” He also stressed the role of the over 400 twinning arrangements between towns and cities in Germany and Italy in promoting outstanding relationships between one another. On a political level, Scholz praised the quality of the partnership within the European Union, NATO, and as part of the G7 and G20.

Russian war changes European security

The talks between Scholz and Meloni focused on issues of European security, migration and the future of the European Union. The Federal Chancellor described how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had fundamentally altered the security environment in Europe and presented everyone with new and significant challenges.

He described how it was “an encouraging and positive sign that we are talking to one another and coordinating how best to respond to this new situation. European unity is an asset which we can put to good use,” he said. Russia’s President Putin had not reckoned with it, Scholz said, and had underestimated European unity. “We are standing together with Ukraine, to which we are providing political, financial and humanitarian support, as well as supplying weapons and providing military training,” said Federal Chancellor Scholz, who reaffirmed that “we’ll go on doing so for as long as is necessary.”

NATO will defend itself if required

Scholz explained that the conversation also covered the NATO summit in Vilnius this July, adding that there was unanimous hope of being able to welcome not just Finland into NATO in Vilnius, but Sweden as well.

Federal Chancellor Scholz expressed his desire for the summit in Lithuania to send out a signal of the unity and determination within NATO to stand together in an emergency and “to defend every last square centimetre of NATO territory.”

Migration: urgent need for reforms

European migration policy was also on the agenda, and Scholz stressed its importance for Germany and Italy and for Europe as a whole. “I am optimistic that we can find a common European answer to the challenges posed to us by migration and refugees,” he said. He also emphasised the importance of reforming the Common European Asylum System before the end of the current legislative period of the European Parliament. Europe needed an effective asylum system, Scholz said, which would require compromises from the member states.

Managing migration in the labour market

Scholz also stressed the need for effective rules which provide adequate humanitarian protection for refugees. “At the same time,” the Federal Chancellor said, “we need to manage migration in such a way that we facilitate legal access to our labour markets for skilled workers from abroad. But that also means that, if you do not have the right to stay here, you will have to return to your country of origin, and you must have the means to do so.” Scholz stressed that this made it important to develop reliable partnerships with countries of origin and transit.

EU remains attractive

It is not just Ukraine which wishes to join the EU. Moldova, the Western Balkans states and, further down the line, Georgia all want to become members as well. Scholz argued this was evidence for how attractive the EU is. “It also shows that the European Union must step up its ability to act,” he said. “That’s why I am convinced that we must reform the EU to make it fit for the future.”

Joint pipeline construction

Later in his remarks, the Federal Chancellor touched on stronger collaboration around diversifying European energy supplies. “Expanding the supply network in Europe will benefit us all, and also improve the security of energy supplies,” Scholz said, adding that he was pleased at the agreement which will accelerate work on a new natural gas and hydrogen pipeline between Italy and Germany.