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„Europe is our future“
Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz bei seiner Rede an der Karls Universität in Prag., © Bundesregierung
Speech by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Charles University in Prague, 29 August 2022
The watershed that Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz noted following Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022 also has considerable repercussions for Europe and the European Union. In a speech at the Charles University in Prague on Monday, 29 August, Federal Chancellor Scholz sets out these issues and describes his objective of
a geopolitical European Union that deals with the challenges it faces – both internally and externally. The European Union, which started out as a peace project within Europe, must now defend its values and protect its independence and stability also externally.
It was for good reason that Prague was chosen as the venue for this reflection on the state of European policy as Czechia is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The Czech capital is a symbol for Europe, for its history with is highs and lows. Prague stands for the fact that we in the EU will find good Solutions only together as equal partners – East and West, North and South.
Russia’s war of aggression reminds us that a values-based, well-coordinated foreign policy is a prerequisite for a geopolitical Europe. The Union must place its efforts on a broader footing at home – with regular meetings of the Heads of State and Government of all European countries in a forum of a European Political Community of the kind proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron. At the same time, the EU should conclude new global partnerships in Asia, Africa and Latin America in order to increase its political clout in the world. In his speech in Prague, Federal Chancellor Scholz mentions four areas that he believes are key for a geopolitical European Union.
1. An enlarged and reformed Europe
The enlargement of the EU is necessary in order to safeguard stability within Europe and to protect our common values. The European Council gave Ukraine and Moldova candidate status in June and signalled that is ready to grant this status to Georgia as well. The countries of the Western Balkans have been waiting to join the EU for almost 20 years. It is time to make good on this promise. The candidate countries of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and, down the line, Georgia, deserve unwavering support as they work to fulfil the criteria for accession.
At the same time, an enlarged European Union with 30 or 36 member states must improve its own decision-making structures in order to remain capable of taking action: with more majority decisions as opposed to unanimity in the Council; with a new balance for the composition of the European Parliament; and with a Commission that continues to have one Commissioner per member state, but which is more efficiently organised internally.
2. A more sovereign Europe
At the latest since Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, it is apparent to everyone that Europe must become more independent and stronger. Europe can achieve the necessary sovereignty with the expansion of global trade relations, diversified supply chains and a genuine European circular economy. Europe should, in a self-confident manner, work towards technological sovereignty by Setting standards for key technologies and exhausting its potential for innovation, be it in microchip production or with a European Mobility Data Space. Climate neutrality by 2050 continues to be a priority. This goal can be reached with an EU internal Energy arket, an EU hydrogen network, a charging infrastructure for cars and lorries and investments in climate-friendly air transport.
The watershed is also a wake-up call in terms of foreign policy. We must strengthen Europe’s foreign, security and defence policy structures. And we must improve the coordination of our military capabilities within the EU and with NATO. A separate EU Council of defence ministers and an EU rapid response force by 2025 with a fully equipped EU headquarters are required to this end.
3. Overcoming old conflicts, endeavouring new solutions
In order to find the right responses to the watershed, the EU must present an even more united front, overcome old conflicts and find new solutions. Migration and fiscal policy are examples of important policy areas with a high risk of leading to tensions. Europe continues to be a dream destination for many people around the world, which is why we need a realistic, forward-looking migration policy. This includes a fair asylum system that is immune to crises with effective protection of our external borders in accordance with the rule of law. We also need a paradigm shift. Legal labour migration must be promoted and irregular migration restricted. Third countries that cooperate with repatriation should be offered paths of legal migration in return while recognised asylum-seekers should be permitted to seek employment in other member states from a much earlier stage than today (after five years). At the same time, effective measures must be taken to prevent abuse. Federal Chancellor Scholz is in favour of making Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia fully fledged members of
Schengen in order to complete and strengthen the border-free Schengen area.
While the European Union demonstrated great financial solidarity during the pandemic, COVID-19 has caused debt levels to rise. In the necessary discussion About debt reduction, a realistic approach that takes into consideration the fact that key transformation investments are possible. The Federal Chancellor therefore proposes that the EU’s fiscal rules be developed in concert with this in mind. In times of crisis, the EU could learn from the experiences made from the SURE programme that has provided support for short-time work during the pandemic.
4. Defending Europe’s values, respecting the rule of law
Last but not least, Europe is a community of law and of shared values that must be protected as the basis of our Union. To this end, Federal Chancellor Scholz proposes that, in the future, the Commission be able to launch infringement Proceedings for breaches of EU fundamental values, that the possibility to block the ruleof- law procedure under Article 7 be reduced and that EU payments be made contingent on upholding the rule of law.