German Scholz pledges to support Ukraine ‘as long as it takes’

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives to give a lecture at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, August 29, 2022. REUTERS/David W Cerny

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  • Scholz is committed to maintaining its economic, political and military support
  • Wants an enlarged EU to include Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia
  • Proposes EU majority vote on foreign and fiscal policy
  • Wants Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen area

PRAGUE, Aug 29 (Reuters) – Germany will maintain its support for Kyiv “as long as it takes”, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday, calling for EU enlargement to include Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

In the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Scholz urged the 27 EU members to “close ranks, resolve old conflicts and find new solutions”, outlining his vision for the future of the EU. Europe in a speech delivered at Charles University in Prague.

“Our Europe is united in peace and freedom and is open to all European nations who share our values,” he said.

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Germany has undergone a “fundamental reversal” in recent months on its military support for Ukraine, he said.

“We will maintain this support, reliably and, above all, for as long as it takes,” he told a packed university audience.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed the promise ‘as long as it takes’ made in Kyiv in a speech in Slovenia, calling for ‘new strategic thinking’ to uphold European values .

The COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine have prompted leaders to worry about Europe’s vulnerability to economic shocks, its struggle to exert political influence and the risk of losing credibility with its neighbors. .

Scholz announced a paradigm shift in German foreign and defense policy in February, pledging to increase military spending, but his junior coalition partners became miffed that Berlin had been too slow to send heavy weapons to Germany. ‘Ukraine. Read more

Scholz used his Prague speech, titled ‘Europe is our future’, to promise that Germany would send advanced weapons, such as air defense and radar systems and reconnaissance drones, to Ukraine. , in the weeks and months to come.

Germany could also take responsibility for strengthening Ukraine’s artillery and air defense capabilities, he said.

Emphasizing the case for EU enlargement, he said a gradual transition to majority voting was a stepping stone to growth for the bloc.

He underlined Germany’s commitment to EU enlargement and said the Western Balkan countries, Ukraine, Moldova and possibly Georgia should join the bloc.

ACCELERATING MEMBERSHIP?

There are increasing calls for the accession process of EU candidate countries in the Western Balkans to be accelerated in order to prevent them from losing patience and falling under the influence of Russia and China.

Von der Leyen, speaking at a strategic forum in the Slovenian resort of Bled, said the Western Balkan countries’ progress towards membership has been slowed “by international actors, including Russia, who seek undermine the establishment of democratic institutions and the rule of law”.

Critics say these countries’ long wait is as much due to the reluctance of many of the existing 27 member states to expand further.

Scholz acknowledged that an enlarged EU would lead to greater differences between member states and suggested a reform of its voting practices.

“Where unanimity is required today, the risk of an individual country using its veto and preventing all others from moving forward increases with each additional member state,” Scholz added.

“I therefore proposed a gradual move to majority voting in common foreign policy, but also in other areas, such as fiscal policy – ​​knowing full well that this would have repercussions for Germany as well,” he said. he declared.

Scholz’s call for key issues within the EU to be agreed by qualified majority rather than unanimity, although not new, is another signal of concern that many initiatives of the bloc to deal with crises – such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine – are vetoed by some member states or watered down.

A requirement of unanimity would be even more likely to thwart EU ambitions in a union of more than 30, but smaller states and, in particular, Hungary and Poland are not likely to give up their right anytime soon. of veto.

French President Emmanuel Macron said separately in Paris on Monday that there would be a first discussion in the coming weeks on the idea he has floated of creating a European Political Community, a club that would bring together EU candidate countries. and those outside the bloc – even recently leaving Britain – to foster regional solidarity and safeguard European values.

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Additional reporting by Robert Muller and John Chalmers; Written by Paul Carrel; Editing by Alex Richardson

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