It is interesting who Olaf Scholz does not mention in the German Bundestag that day. He thanks Robert Habeck for trying to get away from Russian oil and gas, that he wants to rapidly expand wind energy on land and at sea. He even thanks Friedrich Merz for working constructively to jointly anchor the 100 billion special fund for the Bundeswehr in the Basic Law.
In previous speeches, he also thanked his Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) for her commitment to the passage on the special fund and arms deliveries to Ukraine. Now Scholz doesn’t say a word to her. No thanks, nothing. Are these withdrawal movements?
Lambrecht reads files on the government bench, but this day offers after the Chancellor’s government statement, made because of the EU special summit on 30./31. May, more unpleasant news for you. Especially with the appearance of Friedrich Merz: There is now “a minister here who has had more to do with self-swearing than with defense for weeks,” says the CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader. Embarrassing details about an uninformed and disinterested minister from the media would be leaked from the Bundeswehr. He asks the Chancellor to part with Lambrecht. The chancellor will have to do that anyway, so he had better do it now.
He said that in three years it would be said that she did a good job. Scholz is known for his loyalty, she was his choice. But whether that can go well, does she still have the authority in the troupe to implement his turning point politically? The chancellor is – still – undeterred. And prefer to draw the big lines. “Seldom before has our cooperation with the economically strong democracies, the G7, been as effective and intensive as during the past few days and weeks under our presidency,” he emphasizes. US President Joe Biden has played a major role in this – especially with a view to NATO, but in autumn the Democrats are threatened with a defeat in congressional elections, Donald Trump is working on his comeback.
Therefore, Western unity is not secure, just like that in Scholz’s Berlin coalition. When he looks into the eyes of the FDP colleagues, “I see a deep longing for Jamaica. And I can understand it,” tweeted CDU MP Christoph de Vries during the debate. After the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Union is on top and constantly emphasizes that there is also a mathematical possibility for a coalition in the Bundestag. It is noticeable that the Greens and FDP applause for the Scholz speech seems almost dutiful.
Scholz stoically outlines the course, but also has some news in his luggage. He reports on the many letters and discussions with concerned citizens. But he also wanted to make one thing very clear: “Helping a country that has been brutally attacked to defend itself is not escalation. But a contribution to repelling the attack – and thus ending the violence as quickly as possible.”
Vladimir Putin still believes that he can bomb a dictated peace. “But he is wrong, just as he was wrong about the determination of Ukrainians and the unity of our alliances. There will be no dictated peace. Because the Ukrainians don’t accept him – and neither do we.”
Only when Putin understands that he cannot break Ukraine’s defenses will he be ready to seriously negotiate peace. “That’s why we’re strengthening Ukraine’s back, also militarily.” Scholz is making tougher announcements than French President Emmanuel Macron recently. He’s not talking about a face-saving solution, he wants the Russians to withdraw all troops to the pre-February 24 borders. There are no differences to the Union at all.
The principle that guides him is: considered, weighed up and closely coordinated internationally. That doesn’t mean German going it alone, “everything we do must harm Russia more than ourselves and our partners,” and what makes NATO a war party, such as enforcing a no-fly zone, is not being done. “And we will secure and strengthen our own defense capability.”
You need special funds for that. After one could not yet agree with the Union (which is needed for the amendment of the Basic Law for the two-thirds majority) about the details of the expenditure, the vote is now to take place in the budget week at the beginning of June. “We are in good talks about this, also with your party, dear Mr. Merz. I’m grateful for that,” says Scholz, looking over at his opponent.
Merz’s facial expressions and body language make it clear what he thinks of this chancellor. He now has a strong connection on the SPD side, at least with parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich, who is always looking for contact in order to find an agreement. The biggest round of applause came for Scholz’s welcome to the Finns and Sweden for their desire to join NATO. The motto “One for all and all for one” is what makes the transatlantic alliance so attractive. “Dear friends in Sweden and Finland, you are very welcome. With you by our side, NATO and Europe will be stronger and more secure.”
He announced an EU solidarity fund for Ukraine. “Reconstruction (…) will cost billions.” At the same time, he makes it clear that there can be no quick EU accession, Macron initially has something like a privileged partnership in mind. “The fact that there are no shortcuts on the way to the EU is also a requirement of fairness towards the six countries in the western Balkans,” emphasizes Scholz. And almost casually, he says something that Chancellor Angela Merkel recently didn’t dare to do: a change in the EU treaties – to herald a turning point in Europe as well.
“Citizens want, for example, more consistency in climate protection, progress in European defence, a fairer and more inclusive Europe with more social interaction.” The unanimity principle is also a thorn in his side, so Hungary has blocked the oil embargo so far.
“If the matter requires it, then we can talk about changing the treaties, including a convention. That’s not taboo.” And since this was the most important topic for the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, he emphasizes that the fight against inflation also has top priority; that the abolition of the EEG surcharge, the energy flat rate of 300 euros (which pensioners do not receive, as the Union complains), tax discounts when filling up, social subsidies and the 9-euro ticket in local transport do not have to be the last word. The Chancellery is looking forward to autumn with great concern when the ancillary cost bills arrive. And the traffic light, especially the FDP, but wants to go back to the debt brake for the 2023 budget.
Friedrich Merz remains true to himself, like last time, he starts his speech with a Scholz quote. “I will not join a group of people who do something for a short in and out with a photo shoot,” said the Chancellor on RTL on the long-term theme of visiting Kyiv. Who does he mean by that? Heads of government of European countries, his foreign minister or the President of the Bundestag?
This leads to heckling in the SPD parliamentary group. Replica Merz: “Your nerves are really on edge after the last election Sunday.” The Sauerland dissects Scholz above all again with the topic of arms deliveries, but is not quite up to date himself.
“The truth is that almost nothing has been delivered from Germany in the past few weeks.” There is no ammunition for the Cheetah tank, and nothing is going on with the ring exchange either. “What double game is actually being played in the federal government?” Anton Hofreiter is right, the problem lies in the Chancellery. In the Chancellery they say both are wrong, Merz must have presented outdated speaking notes.
The Ukrainian government is now also clearly praising the German contributions. The Gepard tanks would be delivered after the ongoing training of Ukrainian soldiers in Germany – with enough ammunition. And the day before, Lambrecht was able to announce that Germany would hand over 15 Leopard tanks to the Czech Republic so that the Czech Republic could in turn deliver heavy equipment that the Ukrainians are already familiar with to the war zone. But the question remains as to how long Lambrecht can still announce such news as this ring exchange.