Vulnerable, Germany hopes for a sovereign Europe
Germany has spoken! It took five years for her to respond to Emmanuel Macron’s speech on Europe at the Sorbonne on September 26, 2017. Successor to the cautious Angela Merkel, Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed « to all Europeans » on August 29 from Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, which holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers of the EU during this semester. A wise choice: this city steeped in history and culture is a crossroads located not far from Ukraine, the target of Russian imperialism which has destabilized the entire continent since February 24.
This war notably shattered one of the major axes of German diplomacy: the maintenance of strong commercial relations with Moscow, with a view to stabilizing this suspicious “partner”. Berlin had notably based its energy transition strategy on a reinforced supply of Russian gas. However, the policy of sanctions decided by the European Union after the attack on Ukraine has called into question this link of dependence. The reprisals launched by Moscow accelerated the crisis and sowed panic among the industrialists of Europe’s leading economy. Germany is finding itself fragile and vulnerable, exposed to the risk of severe shortages during the coming winter. It needs European solidarity. A context that encourages you to open your game.
An opening signal
For about fifty minutes, Olaf Scholz pleaded for a “Sovereign Europe, capable of holding its own in a multipolar world”, a Union defending its democratic values and pursuing its expansion along Russia’s borders – as far as Georgia. He advocated a more efficient organization to deal with crises and suggested institutional reforms to prepare for the arrival of new members. He called for massive investments in sectors where « independence » of the continent: energy transition, digital technologies, defence, space… More than a vision, the Chancellor presented the options in which his country is ready to play a driving role, or even a mediator. Pragmatically, he stressed the importance of « de facto solidarity » promoted as early as 1950 by Robert Schuman and concluded by expressing a sense of urgency: “When, if not now, will we overcome the differences that have held us back and divided us for years? And who, if not us, can protect and defend the values of Europe, both internally and externally? Europe is our future. And that future is in our hands. »
This speech does not announce a strong leadership from Germany. But it translates a spirit of openness which contrasts with the solo rider or the doctrinal posture frequently adopted by the German leaders for fifteen years. This signal opens the field of possibilities, in particular for the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who will develop a keynote speech before the European Parliament on September 14. Very concretely, it enabled Paris and Berlin to overcome their deep differences on their respective energy strategies and to commit to supporting each other in the event of tension on gas and electricity supplies next winter. Approaching 60e anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, signed on January 22, 1963 by de Gaulle and Adenauer, the Franco-German couple wants to cultivate a spirit of mutual aid and cooperation.