German Chancellor Scholz pledges support for stronger Europe
Brussels: After a long day of discussions in Paris and Brussels, new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country is ready to work closely with the European Union (EU) and other member states to make Europe “strong and sovereign.”
Scholz, who was sworn in on Wednesday as the successor of Angela Merkel, followed in his predecessor’s footsteps in making France the first stop during his first-ever trip abroad as chancellor, Xinhua news agency reported.
During his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Scholz pledged to work with France on the major challenges confronting the EU.
The two leaders discussed the future of the EU with regard to immigration, new sources of energy, border protection and relations with third countries.
Macron told a press conference after the meeting that he had seen “a convergence of views, a desire to have our countries work together, and a firm and determined belief in Europe, which I knew already, which we will need in the months and years ahead.”
Scholz said their talks focused on “making Europe strong and sovereign” in terms of economy, security, and foreign policy. “What is important there is that we work together,” he said.
The meeting took place a day after Macron had laid out the agenda for a “Europe that is powerful in the world” during France’s turn as the rotating president of the 27-member Council of the European Union in the first half of 2022.
STRONGER EUROPE, MULTIPOLAR WORLD
Then the chancellor arrived in Brussels, where he met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
At a joint press conference with von der Leyen, Scholz emphasised the importance of strengthening the EU’s security and defence policy.
He also spoke about his vision of a “strong, sovereign European Union” that will be able to respond to foreign policy challenges in a coordinated way. “Any threat against any EU country will not be tolerated,” he stressed.
Scholz leads a coalition of his Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens. The German government works together in a united way, he said. “All three parties are pro-European,” he said.
Germany, as one of the strongest economies in the EU, bears the responsibility to take the role to ensure progress and a bright future in Europe, the chancellor said.
Von der Leyen, a German politician herself, said Germany played an important role in shaping the EU.
“The European Commission is ready for intensive cooperation with the new German government,” she said, highlighting the fight against the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate action in the framework of the European Green Deal, and large-scale digitalisation as key areas for cooperation between the European Commission and Germany.
At another press conference with European Council President Charles Michel, Scholz stressed that the EU should live peacefully with other countries when it seeks strategic sovereignty in the multipolar world of today.
The world will not be bipolar as some people speculate, but a multipolar one with “many powers,” including the US, Russia, China, Japan, India as well as many other rising economies, he said.
The former German Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor in the Merkel government won 395 of the 707 votes cast in the Bundestag lower house on Wednesday, and pledged broad “continuity” with Merkel’s policies while striving to make Germany greener and fairer.