Olaf Scholz’s ambitions for Europe

Olaf Scholz's ambitions for Europe

Olaf Scholz is not a man to multiply the speeches. Once is not custom, on August 29, at the University of Prague, the German Chancellor however left the reserve he likes to try to clarify his European agenda. After more than six months of war in Ukraine, it is a way for him to decline at the continental level the “change of time” (Zeitenwende) that he advocates at home in order to face the conflict initiated by Russia, to initiate the modernization of the German army and to reduce his country’s dependence on Russian gas. A way also to respond to those who doubt Germany’s ability to face the harsh reality of the present times.

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For the German Chancellor, Europe must make a new leap of integration, in order to strengthen its role “geopolitics” and defend his “sovereignty”, two ambitions dear to Emmanuel Macron that he takes up on his own. According to him, the European Union (EU) must in particular strengthen its defense capabilities to be able to respond without depending indefinitely on its American ally and the Atlantic Alliance.

On the institutional level, he is in favor of a reform of the European treaties. The latter should allow the community as a whole to function better, by having more recourse, among other innovations, to qualified majority voting on strategic questions of foreign policy or taxation. He still says he is in favor of a common policy making it possible to regulate legal immigration.

The Social Democratic Chancellor thus clarifies the coalition contract signed before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine with his ecologist and liberal partners, without taking up the federal approach sketched out at the time at the request of the Greens. In passing, it provides explicit support for the project of “European political community” launched on May 9 by the French Head of Stateso as not to rush enlargement while still anchoring Ukraine and the candidate countries to the EU.

After years of an Ostpolitik with regard to Vladimir Putin considered by many in Central Europe as too complacent, even naive, the Chancellor’s speech also aims to respond to his detractors, quick to challenge the Franco-German leadership since the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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While firmly recalling the importance of values ​​and the rule of law, Mr Scholz said he was in favor of the enlargement of the European Union, so that it eventually had thirty, or even thirty-six members, when the Balkan countries will have integrated it, as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. He calls for the enlargement of the Schengen area to include Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. While he is pleased that Germany is becoming ever more central in this vast entity, he denounces, in a notable divergence from the French president, the“confused tangle” that, in his view, would arise from a multi-speed Europe.

These differences should not be underestimated, but the many points of convergence with Emmanuel Macron stated by Olaf Scholz suggest that Paris and Berlin are positioning themselves to consolidate the common front built in the emergency since the invasion of Ukraine, and to outline the European perspective required by this upheaval. Five years after Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the Sorbonne, the German Chancellor’s speech of conviction is therefore good news for Europe.

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