Perhaps the chancellor should hold such dialogue formats more often; in any case, visitors to the 102nd Catholic Church Congress will get to know a different chancellor than they might have expected. And he can even elicit a few little secrets.
“I had a pet as a child, it was a black cat,” says Scholz with a mischievous grin. “He had a name that shouldn’t be assigned today. Namely Mohrle,” adds the Chancellor. “But he was very nice.”
But the short excursion into childhood is quickly overshadowed by the topic that also characterizes the Kirchentag. The Catholic Church used to be the mainstay in such times of crisis, today it is more concerned with itself with a lack of reforms, abuse scandals and resignations.
The Pope’s mediation efforts in the Ukraine war have also come to nothing so far. Irme Stetter-Karp, President of the Central Committee of German Catholics, emphasizes on the podium with a Ukraine scarf on her shoulders: “We have to make an effort to be an integrative force, where we show that we convert hope into action.”
At the meeting in Stuttgart, many are of the opinion that peace cannot be created through weapons. A participant asked the chancellor: “Are so many weapons really necessary for our security? Answer Scholz: “Yes.” Laughter at the terse Hanseatic answer, but Scholz then takes the word that there is still a little more to say.
You are working with the Union on an agreement to change the Basic Law in order to create a special fund of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr. The agreement should actually be in place by next week, the chancellor needs a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag for the core project of his chancellorship. “I am very confident that we will come to an agreement. But we’re not there yet,” he says. “Then we will first order ammunition on a large scale, you wouldn’t have thought that either, it’s about billions.” Why does he think there is no alternative?
“We are preparing for a large-scale attack on NATO and our country’s territory,” emphasized the Chancellor, addressing a message to Vladimir Putin; “So that doesn’t happen, we have to be able to show that it won’t work because we’re strong enough. That’s all we want.” Big applause.
It’s a contrast to the day before, at the World Economic Forum in Davos he was only able to convince the critics of his deliberative course to a limited extent, especially in Eastern Europe there is great resentment – Scholz, on the other hand, sees his actions in line with the NATO partners. The Union demands clarity about informal NATO agreements, for example that certain tanks such as the Leopard should not be delivered to Ukraine in order not to be classified as a war party by Vladimir Putin. But he hasn’t said yet whether that should also apply to Marder infantry fighting vehicles, the Rheinmetall group is still waiting for a decision on the requested delivery of 100 Marder tanks, which primarily bring soldiers into battle and have less firepower than modern battle tanks . This also causes frustration on the Ukrainian side.
In the Donbass, Ukraine is losing ground day by day, with many casualties. The chairwoman of the Defense Committee in the Bundestag, Marie-Agnes-Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), is increasingly annoyed by the delay. “A coordinator has to sit at a table with the partner countries, industry, the German armed forces, ministries and Ukraine,” she demands. “We are losing precious time because of the war in Ukraine. It’s unbearable.” But military expert Carlo Masala warns against focusing too much on yourself. “What Germany delivers is not decisive for the war. What matters is what everyone delivers together,” he tweeted. Because Russian troops are increasingly relying on massive artillery fire, the US government is considering sending long-range multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine, according to CNN. The MLRS and HIMARS artillery systems can fire missiles over hundreds of kilometers. A new aid package could be announced as early as next week. Ukraine has asked for these types of weapons, they say.
But at the same time, the chancellor warns at the Kirchentag against losing sight of what is happening in parallel beyond Europe. He is specifically wooing the democracies that Russia and China are trying to win over to their side, and has just been to Niger, Senegal and South Africa. He also invited Argentina, Senegal, South Africa, India and Indonesia to the G7 summit in Elmau at the end of June. “We have to establish a new understanding with the democracies of the world.” And it is important to refute Putin’s narrative that the West is to blame for global food crises, for example, because Ukraine is being so strongly supported.
With a view to the massive granting of Chinese loans to poorer countries, especially in Africa, he warns of a new financial crisis, which is why attempts are being made to win China over to the “Paris Club”, whose member states are organizing debt restructuring between debtor and creditor countries. In Stuttgart, Scholz is trying to give confidence, as well as guidance, which he sees as his central task alongside supporting Ukraine, improving its own defense capabilities, more support and partnership with the Global South.
The motto of the discussion in the Beethoven Hall is “A turning point and cohesion”. Writer Nora Bossong emphasizes the importance of the state in these times. “The state protects me, father Scholz, before mother Merkel,” she says smugly. Scholz has to put his hand in front of his eyes, like “Oh God” and laughs. Scholz is a frequent reader, and he based his election campaign on this topic. Putin wants to divide Western democracies, he emphasizes, and admits: “Our society is at risk.” For a politician standing at the information stand, it is depressing when someone comes along and says, “Everything you do is about me it doesn’t work there”. Ignorance that shrugs off the problems of many citizens is poison for society and democracy. “Trump was no coincidence,” he says. The Brexit is related to the fact that many citizens had the feeling that the City of London with the many bankers ruled the whole country.
Therefore, a policy should be developed that means: “It’s also about me”. Scholz reports how important it is, for example, to give people in Lusatia new perspectives in opencast coal mining. Here there are loud heckling, a man tries to storm the stage, someone shouts “nonsense” to Scholz’s comments on the difficulties in phasing out coal. Scholz reacts directly, reminiscent of his appearance on May 1 in Düsseldorf, when he put critics of his support for Ukraine in the laces. “It’s not taking part in a discussion, it’s an attempt to manipulate an event for its own purposes,” he calls back. There is thunderous applause. The demonstrator is carried out of the hall. Then he continues with his example of Lusatia, he was there recently, a new railway repair shop with thousands of jobs should open up new opportunities for the employees of the lignite-fired power plants there.
He was baptized as a Protestant but left the church and was the first non-denominational chancellor in the Federal Republic. The SPD politician had also dispensed with the addition “So help me God” when taking the oath. However, he was strongly influenced by an ethic “that we are there for each other,” he emphasized at the Church Congress. “That’s why, at the age of 17, I made a very specific political decision.”