Government statement: Scholz sees the ice age coming up with Moscow


As of: 06/22/2022 7:51 p.m

It is a thoughtful chancellor who explained his policy in the Bundestag today. He reported on his visit to Kyiv and called for a Marshall Plan for Ukraine. Big topics, but the debate about them remains factual and sober.

By Mario Kubina, ARD Capital Studio

First of all, Olaf Scholz has to be patient at this Bundestag session. The previous Question Time drags on, ten minutes ago it would have been the chancellor’s turn. If that annoys him, he doesn’t show it. He sits quietly on the government bench, in front of him a folder with the federal eagle. Then the agenda item “government declaration” is called up, and Scholz walks to the lectern, opens the folder – and reads from the sheet.

If, after the unusually lively general debate in the past budget week, there were expectations that Parliament would experience another rhetorical moment of glory this time, they were disappointed. The Chancellor falls back into old lecture patterns, sticks to his manuscript with a few exceptions and occasionally speaks so softly that it is difficult to understand him from the press gallery.

Scholz calls for “Marshal Plan” for Ukraine

What he has to say carries weight: Scholz reports on his trip to Ukraine, on destroyed houses and shot-up cars. Of cities like Irpin and Bucha, which he calls “places of horror”. But the fact that these places could be liberated from the Russian occupiers – the Chancellor sees this as a sign of hope. The impressions from last week would have reminded him of the pictures of destroyed German cities after the Second World War: “And like war-ravaged Europe then, Ukraine needs a Marshall Plan for reconstruction today.”

That’s why he invited the Ukrainian President to the upcoming G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in Upper Bavaria. Volodymyr Zelenskyj is to be connected there via video, as well as at tomorrow’s EU summit and the NATO summit next week. In order to organize the additional aid for Ukraine, the chancellor intends to convene an international conference of experts as part of the German G7 presidency. With the Marshall Plan, the USA financed the reconstruction in Germany and other European countries after the Second World War with many billions of US dollars.

Scholz wants to defend “every square meter” of NATO territory

According to a thoughtful Scholz, Germany knows from its own history what it owes to its allies. Addressing the EU countries that feel particularly threatened by the Russian regime, he directs clear – almost martial – words: “We will defend every square meter of alliance territory!” And he reiterated his promise that Germany would do its part to strengthen NATO’s so-called eastern flank and expand its presence in the Baltic region. There is applause for this – also from the Union, the largest opposition faction.

In the relationship between Germany and Russia, the Chancellor sees a new ice age approaching because of the attack on Ukraine. A partnership with “imperialist Russia” under Vladimir Putin is unimaginable. However, Scholz warned against drawing the wrong conclusions from this: “It would be unwise for us to terminate the NATO-Russia Founding Act,” he said. Because the founding act reaffirms the very principles that Putin is violating: the renunciation of violence, respect for borders, the sovereignty of independent states. The Russian President should be reminded of this again and again, said Scholz.

Merz speaks of a turning point in European history

Friedrich Merz also uses big terms in his speech. The Union faction leader speaks of the “deepest turning point” in European history since the Second World War. But this time Merz is less aggressive than in the previous general debate, when he was allowed to speak in front of Scholz and made him free parts of his speech. Today, however, it is Merz who answers the chancellor – and he simply listens to the opposition leader. Polite but largely motionless.

Then Merz tries to point out that large parts of the SPD parliamentary group would stay away from the government statement and debate. What’s going on with the Social Democrats, he wants to know from the representatives of the government camp. But on this day he cannot lure the chancellor out of his reserve. Which is probably related to the fact that the back rows of Parliament are sparsely occupied this time.

Merz praises Scholz for visiting Kyiv

Incidentally, Merz is more statesmanlike in this appearance: the federal government and the Bundestag must fulfill their responsibility for Ukraine. He called the chancellor’s visit to Kyiv an important sign of solidarity with a “country and its people that are still being abused.” And the recent tensions between Lithuania and Russia show, in his view, that Putin must be stopped in Ukraine: “If that doesn’t work, he’ll continue.” For this, Merz also gets applause from the ranks of the Greens, who have seen their early warnings about Putin confirmed for weeks.

Nevertheless, Katharina Dröge identifies a “huge gap” in Merz’s speech. The Greens faction leader means the “climate crisis”, which the CDU leader did not address at this appearance either. Otherwise, Dröge also largely refrains from verbal attacks and emphasizes – like FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr – how important it is to give Ukraine a perspective for EU accession. And in a touch of pathos, Dürr adds: Germany stands by the people of Ukraine who risked their lives to defend their freedom.

Parliament does not allow itself more emotion this time, and there is no lively debate. There would be an audience for it that day: the visitor stands in the plenary hall are packed.

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