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Germany’s Scholz urges EU to deepen unity in the face of Russian threat

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday urged EU countries to show more unity and end “egoistic blockades” in areas such as foreign policy in order to turn the bloc into a “geopolitical actor” that can act more forcefully on the global stage.

In an op-ed published in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Scholz also announced that his government would “make concrete proposals in the next months” to strengthen the EU in the areas of migration and defense policy as well as technological sovereignty and democratic resilience — without providing further details about these reform plans.

“The European Union is the living antithesis of imperialism and autocracy,” Scholz wrote, arguing that “this is why it is such a thorn in the side of rulers like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

Scholz praised the bloc for taking “historic decisions in recent months” by adopting far-reaching sanctions against Moscow and showing unity in the face of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. But he also warned against “permanent disunity, permanent dissent between member states” on certain issues that weakened Europe’s ability to play a bigger role on the international stage. Member countries must overcome their divisions, he argued.

“We simply can no longer afford national vetoes, for example in foreign policy, if we want to continue to be heard in a world of competing great powers,” Scholz wrote.

Without naming them, the chancellor took a swipe at EU countries like Hungary and Poland that have held up EU decisions in the past, for example on sanctions against Russia or a global minimum tax. They also used their veto to try to extract concessions from the EU in other fields.

Over the past weeks, Scholz has repeatedly urged countries to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting on foreign policy matters. Crucially, he said that the EU first had to reform itself before admitting new member countries such as Ukraine or Western Balkan countries. However, some bigger countries like France but also smaller nations like the Baltic states have expressed hesitancy about giving up their veto right on crucial foreign and security policy decisions.

In his op-ed on Monday, Scholz argued that the EU’s determination to stand up to Putin would also have broader global implications. “Autocrats around the world are watching very closely” whether Putin could succeed with his “neocolonial” war against Ukraine, he wrote.

The chancellor was most likely referring to China, although he did not name the country. German and EU officials have expressed concerns that a failure to stand up to Russia could encourage Beijing to undertake similar military aggressions against Taiwan or in the South China Sea.

Scholz promised to continue to support Ukraine “economically, financially, with humanitarian aid and by supplying weapons for as long as it needs this support,” while repeating his mantra that the NATO military alliance must not become directly involved in the war.

Alluding to the fear that Moscow might further reduce or even completely stop gas deliveries to Germany and the EU, Scholz wrote that it won’t be “an easy task” to overcome the dependence on Russian energy imports.

“We will need a lot of stamina,” he wrote.

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