30.06.22, Tagesspiegel Gebäude, Berlin. Manfred Weber (CSU). Parteivorsitzender der EVP im Sonntagsinterview mit Georg Ismar.

We have to reckon with a difficult winter. With the determination with which Putin is acting, it can be assumed that he will cut or stop deliveries. And that’s why we have to prepare for it now. For Germany, this means that we use all forms of energy that we have. That also means nuclear energy. Look around Europe: the Dutch are building two new nuclear power plants, for example. All of Europe is doing what Germany has so far refused to do.

I simply cannot understand why coal-fired power plants are good in this situation and nuclear power is bad. We are in an emergency where every source of energy is needed. That is why we must now overcome ideologies and find pragmatic solutions. I’m certainly not a nuclear fanatic, but almost all of Europe sees nuclear as an essential part of the future.

Europe urgently needs decisions on binding energy solidarity. I don’t want to experience any more confusion like in the pandemic, where everyone closed the borders, provided themselves with masks when Europe failed. In other words, we need binding mechanisms on how to deal with the gas that is in the storage tanks in solidarity, so that everyone doesn’t just look at themselves. In autumn, when things get really serious, these mechanisms have to work.

There should be a special EU summit in July to decide on binding measures for fair gas distribution. The EU must finally learn to prepare for the crisis and not only to react to the crisis when it is there with hectic and problems – as happened during the pandemic. Finally, Europe must learn to work with foresight. And that is why leadership by the heads of state and government is urgently needed.

We need a binding mechanism to ensure that European gas storage facilities are managed jointly. Not that the lucky ones, because the gas lines are a bit closer, have full gas storage tanks, are profiteers and the other will then experience energy shortages in the fall. Gas arriving in Europe must be distributed fairly. Also the liquid gas. But there are other facets.

When will we finally manage to become a purchasing group? It doesn’t make any sense that Robert Habeck, the French energy minister, the Austrian energy minister, they all fly to Qatar and sign contracts. Consumer prices would be reduced if the EU bought together. We also have to think beyond that. Why doesn’t the EU jointly finance large photovoltaic projects in the south of Europe, instead of everyone also building systems in the less sunny north? That would also have positive economic effects for the South, which has to catch up if we adopt a common energy policy there.

Yes, the current Lisbon Treaty only gives limited powers in the energy sector. That was also the case with the pandemic, but the EU procured vaccines together. But the situation shows that we now need the strength to adapt Europe’s architecture. We are not prepared for the storms of the times we live in. Therefore a constitutional convention is necessary; a renewal of the European Union so that we can prepare for the next decade. Europe is a community with a destiny, and Europeans have made progress in many areas. Despite all the crises, today we live in the best Europe we have ever had.

Building Nord Stream 2 was a mistake. The construction was made after the annexation of Crimea. And the Crimea was the real taboo break. For the first time after the Second World War, land borders on European soil were moved by force of arms and by military means. Like many others, I have brought this up again and again. There were many, especially outside of Germany, who warned. It was a misjudgment to increase energy dependency on Russia so massively. We should also be honest about this so that such mistakes are not repeated, for example when dealing with China.

In retrospect, of course, one is always smarter. Anyone who counted on the common sense of the Russian leadership at the time was not acting maliciously. But today we live in a new Europe. The Central and Eastern European heads of state and government, of which there are many in the ranks of the EPP, were not heard enough in Berlin and Paris at the time. With this war, the power architecture of the EU is also changing. Central and Eastern Europeans will appear with more self-confidence in the future. That’s good for Europe.

We only get peace from a position of strength. I am sure that the appeasement approach does not work, it failed miserably before the Second World War and in other historical situations. Therefore, strength, unity and determination are required. There can be no dialogue with this Putin-Russia today. Even with a ceasefire, Europe cannot do business as usual with these war criminals. If necessary, we have to do even more than we have been doing so far.

Germany and the EU are not at war. But we are a war target, everyone should be aware of that. Putin wants a Eurasian Union from Lisbon to Vladivostok. And so far Putin has been doing what he says. Putin himself defines when we would be at war. He hates our way of life. He hates it. Freedom, democracy, the rule of law. It’s about nothing less than that, and that has to be described with all clarity.

Unfortunately, the federal government is perceived as a brake pad. If Ukraine were to fall today, many across the world and across Europe would say that Germany bears a great deal of responsibility because the government hesitated for too long. And now they’ve only gotten to a couple of self-propelled howitzers. People close to the chancellor, like his foreign policy adviser, say we need to start thinking about post-war relations with Russia. I call the appeasement that some people in the Chancellery are doing. I firmly believe that there is only one way, and that is determination and strength. And that’s why the government has to give significantly more support and weapons to Ukraine. In the medium term, we even have to be prepared for the fact that this could become a kind of war economy, that armaments production in Europe has to be expanded and continually expanded. Ukraine desperately needs more financial aid – and a major recovery plan.

The federal government was very hesitant about delivering arms, and Germany was the last country in the European Union to implement the Swift sanctions. We are in a historic phase. The current perception of Berlin politics is that there is too little German leadership in Europe in a positive sense. What Angela Merkel has achieved, the quiet, calm way that is missing. It needs this pillar that brings people together, that makes results possible in the Council. Luckily, some things are now being re-emphasized and re-prioritized. But the resulting picture can hardly be repaired.

Olaf Scholz explained to us Germans that we must take Putin’s threat of nuclear war seriously. That’s confirming Russian propaganda to me. If we fall into this trap, that we will become more reluctant to support Ukraine out of anticipatory fear because of the threat of nuclear danger. That’s exactly what Putin wants: uncertainty, fear and division. But in this time of crisis it is necessary to move forward, to provide orientation. And by the way, I also miss that with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The impression prevails that the leading power Germany is not sufficiently available. Should we fail in this situation, it would be a historic failure.

I believe that we should support Ukraine, in consultation with our NATO partners, where it needs it – including heavy weapons.

We don’t have a European legal framework for the defense industry. But we now have to be as quick as we were two years ago when we initiated the taking on of European debt in the first phase of the corona pandemic. Similarly groundbreaking decisions are in demand again. A European defense pillar within NATO is needed. If missiles launched in Kaliningrad can reach Warsaw, Berlin and Copenhagen at the same time, then it is not enough to build national missile defense screens around Berlin, for example. And the principle of unanimity for foreign and security policy in the EU must also be abolished. I am tired of being dependent on Viktor Orbán on foreign policy issues or on the issue of an oil embargo in the EU.

In the end, Orbán supported all previous sanctions packages. But if you consider his blockade during the deliberations on the latest package, you get the following impression: Orbán is playing a very unique game at the Europeans’ table.

It cannot be ruled out that one day the existing reassurance on the part of the USA will be different than it is today, should Trump or a neo-Trump return to the White House. Some time ago, Macron cautiously hinted at the role French nuclear weapons play in Europe. One must at least think about how Article 42 of the EU treaties, which already contains a mutual assistance clause, can also be used in this case.

France has to shoulder enormous costs because of its “Force de Frappe”. For this reason, the government in Paris also has a certain basic interest in a joint approach. Incidentally, the same applies to the project for a European aircraft carrier, which I think makes a lot of sense. France has great problems financing the entire military infrastructure in this area. We Europeans only make up seven percent of the world’s population, so we can no longer afford the existing coexistence in the military field in the long term.

For the most vulnerable in society, we need permanent measures to counteract inflation. Flash in the pan like the nine-euro ticket is not enough. However, politicians would be lying if we told people now that nothing would change. The world is changing fundamentally as a result of the war and the disruption of global supply chains that reach as far as China. The German business model, which is partly based on cheap energy and sales markets in China, is coming to an end. That is why life in this country will also change.

Germany is stable, robust and has a good chance of securing prosperity, but a lot will have to change. The state cannot solve everything with debt. Instead, Europe must be able to use its creative potential with excellently educated people in North and South and an excellent infrastructure.

In the medium and long term, the Russian economy will suffer enormous damage. Sanctions will have to be in place as long as Russian soldiers are on Ukrainian territory. We must not give the impression that sanctions will be lifted if there is a ceasefire. That would strengthen Putin’s system. He would use the breathing space to then strike even harder.