Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to strengthen the European Union with far-reaching reforms and make it fit for expansion. In his keynote address at Charles University in Prague, the SPD politician advocated simpler decision-making processes, a crisis-proof asylum system and closer cooperation in the areas of armaments and defense. Specifically, Scholz announced that he wanted to build a new air defense system together with European neighbors.
"We must emphasize the weight of a united Europe even more," said the Chancellor during his one-day visit to the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU Council Presidency. "Together we have the very best chance of helping to shape and shape the 21st century in our, European sense."
"A sovereign Europe that can hold its own"
With the speech in the Karolinum, the historic main building of the Charles University founded in 1348, Scholz positioned himself comprehensively in European politics for the first time. His CDU predecessor, Angela Merkel, spoke at the same place in 2008.
The Chancellor stressed that the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine had brought the EU together. "If not now, when will we create a sovereign Europe that can assert itself in a multipolar world? If not now, when will we overcome the differences that have paralyzed and divided us for years?"
Scholz for a European summit with countries outside the EU
Scholz supported the French idea for a new European political community, which should enable closer exchange with partners from outside. There is currently no forum where the EU heads of state and government could discuss key issues with partner countries once or twice a year - for example on issues such as security, energy or climate protection. The idea for such a community came from French President Emmanuel Macron.
"Such a merger - which is very important to me - is not an alternative to the forthcoming enlargement of the EU," stressed the Chancellor. "Because we have our word with our accession candidates - with the countries of the Western Balkans for almost 20 years."
Integrate Poland and Balts in air defense
Scholz campaigned for closer cooperation in the defense sector. He argued that a joint air defense system would be cheaper and more effective than national solutions. He named the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the countries in the Baltic States and Scandinavia as possible partners for this. Scholz also called for an independent council of EU defense ministers.
Reform EU institutions
The Chancellor emphasized his support for EU enlargement to include the states of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and, in the future, Georgia. "The fact that the EU continues to grow eastward is a win for all of us." In order to make the EU fit for this, he wants, among other things, to change the composition of the EU Parliament. If you don't want to inflate parliament, then "a new balance is needed in terms of its composition," Scholz demanded. "And while respecting the democratic principle, according to which every vote should have approximately the same weight." Countries with smaller populations are over-represented in the EU Parliament - populous countries like Germany under-represented.
Scholz also advises changes for the EU Commission. The Chancellor said he did not want to shake the principle of "one commissioner per country". "But what speaks against the fact that two commissioners are jointly responsible for one directorate-general?" He also reiterated the call for more majority decisions in the EU Council of Ministers.
Tougher action against violations of fundamental values in the EU
According to Scholz, violations of the fundamental values of the European Union should more easily become a case for the European Court of Justice. He spoke in favor of opening up a new way for the EU Commission to initiate infringement proceedings against member states - also in the case of violations of the basic values enshrined in the EU treaty such as "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the protection of human rights".
In addition, the Chancellor called for action to be taken against the possibility of blocking the rule of law procedure under Article 7 of the EU Treaty. This provides for the possibility of suspending the voting rights of states that seriously and persistently violate EU values. The corresponding proceedings against Hungary and Poland have been going on for a long time - but are not making any progress because a number of states do not want to risk an escalation of the conflict. In addition, Hungary and Poland could protect each other with a veto.
Ukraine conference in Berlin on October 25th
Scholz assured Ukraine: "We will maintain this support, reliably and above all: for as long as necessary." The reconstruction is a "strenuous effort for generations". He announced a reconstruction conference in Berlin for October 25. He also called for better coordination of defense aid to Kyiv.
"Together with the Netherlands, we have therefore launched an initiative aimed at a permanent and reliable division of labor between all partners in Ukraine," said Scholz. "I can imagine, for example, that Germany will take on special responsibility in developing Ukrainian artillery and air defense."