It is still unclear when Olaf Scholz will board the train to Ukraine. But the fact that he will do it after all is not disputed in government circles. He will be judged by the following sentence: “I will not join a group of people who do something for a quick in and out with a photo op. But when it does, it’s always about very specific things,” he said in mid-May.
The fact that he could now travel there with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is a signal that should not be underestimated and that could also silence some criticism. But what exactly can and does Scholz want to achieve? And above all: Will he have something in his luggage?
The Chancellor’s Office is still silent. The SPD politician is planning the visit before the summit of the G7 countries at the end of June with Macron and Draghi, reported “Bild am Sonntag”, citing French and Ukrainian government circles. So far there have been no official confirmations, but no denials either.
What the three could bring with them as leading representatives of the EU would be a clear signal: decisions on Ukraine’s application for membership are pending at EU level. The country hopes to be declared a candidate country at the EU summit on June 23-24. The EU Commission wants to make its recommendation by the end of next week – that could be a good time, for example.
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) traveled to Kyiv again at the weekend. If the three travel to Ukraine before the summit to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, they could bring him strong support for membership.
But at the same time, Scholz made it clear that there can be no shortcut for Ukraine either, the accession process would take years. And it is particularly important to him that the accession prospects for the six Western Balkan states, which have been making intensive efforts for reforms for years, be promoted.
“It’s not just about the security of this region, in which external forces are struggling for influence, not least Russia. It’s about our own security, which cannot be had without a stable European Western Balkans,” said Scholz recently in a government statement. That’s why he has just visited some of the countries, and the traffic light coalition repeatedly refers to the problems with corruption in Ukraine before the Russian war.
The purpose of a trip will be to open up a European perspective for the country or to set it in motion, at least the Elysée says meaningfully.
If there could still be a good time for such a visit for Scholz and Macron as a duo, who keeps phoning Russian President Vladimir Putin to get him to sign a ceasefire, then it would be in this pre-summit phase. Because after the EU summit on June 23rd and 24th, Scholz’s home summit of the G7 countries will take place from June 26th to 28th at Schloss Elmau, to which Selenskyi will also be connected. And since the countries of the Global South are by no means on the side of Ukraine like the West, Scholz has also invited the heads of state and government from South Africa, Senegal, India and Indonesia to Elmau. It is also about the impending famine caused by the war.
After the G7 summit, the week full of summits will be followed by the NATO summit in Brussels.
In terms of timing, a trip before the EU summit could be an option, after that it would be very close because of the G7 summit. In addition to the prospect of joining the EU, there would certainly also be the question of further deliveries of heavy weapons, since Ukraine is increasingly getting on the defensive in the Donbas.
Macron travels to Romania on Tuesday and Moldova on Wednesday. It is therefore speculated in France that a trip to the Ukraine could follow these visits, i.e. on June 16th or 17th at the earliest. The French President has also made a delicate proposal that certainly offers plenty to talk about. Because France wants to take part in a possible operation to end the blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa. The Elysée Palace has announced that the aim is to allow ships to pass through to export the grain stored in Ukraine.
But what such an operation might look like, whether Russia might see it as entering the war, like enforcing a no-fly zone, is an open question. Scholz and Macron are also suspected in Ukraine of being guided by the tactic that Putin should not be humiliated too much. E
r like Scholz emphasize that no decisions are made over the heads of the Ukrainians, that in the end they always have to decide for themselves under what conditions they are ready for ceasefire talks – for which there are currently no signs of hope.
The CDU member of the Bundestag, Michael Brand, was part of a 16-strong delegation of members of parliament from EU countries, from the Baltic States to Portugal, in Ukraine, holding talks with the government, parliament and Selenskyj advisers. “The chancellor is walking a difficult path, even if he will be received diplomatically friendly in Kyiv,” Brand told the Tagesspiegel. “It is a devastating assessment of the German position after 100 days of war between Russia and Ukraine.” The federal government is contributing to endangering peace in Europe, “in that Chancellor Scholz, contrary to public announcements by Ukraine, refuses to provide the necessary help, tricks, camouflage and deceives: That is the picture that prevails as an analysis from the Baltic States to Portugal, and also in Ukraine ” said Brand.
This would particularly affect the issue of arms deliveries. “The Federal Chancellor must finally take his oath of office seriously to avert damage to the German people and must therefore finally actively ensure that the heavy weapons for the defense of Ukraine are delivered quickly, give up his months-long blockade of export permits for such weapons and actively campaign for this that Ukraine will now be granted candidate status for the EU, so that in a few years it will then be able to decide on accession”.
Referring to the Rheinmetall Group’s offer to deliver up to 100 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and dozens of Leopard battle tanks, Brand said Ukraine could sign contracts with German companies immediately once Chancellor Scholz’s blockade was finally lifted. “There is a clear signal from the talks in the foreign and defense ministries in Kyiv. Ukraine doesn’t want anything for free.” Since industry can supply urgently needed material for defense, the chancellor must end the blockade. “The contracts have long been on the table – the green light from Berlin is still missing. There is no longer any alibi for the Scholz blockade, it only exposes us to terrible suspicion and risks escalating a brutal war,” said Brand.
After Scholz was initially able to ensure that no members of the government travel to Ukraine on their own, the line could no longer be maintained in May. So far, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD), Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach have been there. CDU leader Friedrich Merz was the first prominent federal politician to travel to Kyiv and duped Scholz.
Scholz had changed his reasoning several times as to why he didn’t think the time had come for a visit. In his view, the first thing that stood in the way was the cancellation of a trip by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier from the Ukrainian side, who justified this with Steinmeier’s pro-Russian policy as foreign minister.
After the irritations were cleared up, Scholz quoted his sentence that it had to be about more than a photo session. Therefore, he is now creating even more high expectations of this possible trip.