International Meetings: The Chancellor in front of the chain of summits

Status: 06/22/2022 09:24 a.m

Olaf Scholz had little time to find his role as Chancellor in world politics. With the EU Council, the NATO summit and the G7, a series of international meetings await him. Today he is making a government statement.

By Christian Feld, ARD Capital Studio

Brussels. elmau Madrid. Even if the journey only really goes into the mountains once: It is an impressive chain of peaks that Olaf Scholz has in front of him. Tomorrow the meeting of EU heads of state and government, next week NATO summit in Spain. In between, the German Chancellor will be the focus of world attention. Against a backdrop of Bavarian mountains and castles, it hosts the G7 group, the seven most important democratic industrial nations.

Eyes, cameras and microphones are focused on the man whose previous foreign policy actions have also aroused skepticism. An example: It took a long time for Scholz to allow the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline to be stopped. In interviews or at press conferences, he did not even want to mention the name of the project, which is particularly controversial in the east of the EU. Again and again he was asked to finally travel to Kyiv. But this chancellor does not like to be asked.

Germany as a “leading power”?

Olaf Scholz is no novice in international business. As the first mayor of Hamburg, he traveled to China, India and South America. Later, as Federal Minister of Finance, he traveled in the government machine to major international conferences from Bali to Washington. And yet: the Federal Chancellery is in a completely different league. Moreover, in times of war and crisis, Scholz has little leeway to find his own role on the world political stage. The expectations of the head of government of a country that is not only economically strong are too great.

Lars Klingbeil, chairman of the chancellor’s party, has upped the ante himself. In a keynote speech at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, he called for a reorientation of German foreign and security policy. Germany must give up its decades-long restraint and “have the right to claim to be a leading power”.

Leading Power: Is that also the Chancellor’s plan? Possible. At the G7 summit, Scholz wants to advance a political project that he launched as finance minister: the so-called climate club. “It is open to all countries that have committed themselves to certain minimum standards for climate protection,” said Scholz recently at the Hanover Fair. The price for climate-damaging CO2 emissions should be as equal as possible within the club. Can such a project succeed? Many questions remain unanswered, however, it is a discernible attempt to show leadership.

On the other hand, when it came to military support for Ukraine, Scholz gave a different impression: in Ukraine, in the east of the EU, in the Union in the Bundestag, but also in parts of his own traffic light coalition. It is true that shortly after the beginning of the war he gave a powerful speech about turning the tide. After that, the fog around German arms deliveries did not really want to lift. For a long time, Scholz limited himself to the message: We are doing enough – in coordination with our partners. On Monday, the federal government published a full list of past and planned deliveries. The Ukrainian Defense Minister also confirmed that the 2000 self-propelled howitzer arrived in the country’s arsenal.

It can be assumed that the Chancellor has been convinced that he has been following the right plan since the beginning of the war. It would not be an atypical self-assessment. “Scholz is of the opinion that there is actually only one real expert in most areas: Scholz.” This is how Mark Schieritz describes it in his recently published book. He characterizes the SPD man as a politician who works meticulously, methodically and in a structured manner. At the same time, Schieritz writes that he thinks big speeches are overrated.

“Certainly there is a lack of communication”

But Scholz will not be spared from explaining his own politics better. When presenting the Peace Report 2022, Christopher Daase from the Leibniz Institute Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research sees the federal government on a “relatively good path”. One also thinks that “what is often criticized as hesitation is not entirely wrong”. Nevertheless: “Certainly there is a lack of communication.”

There is no shortage of major tasks on the world stage: According to what ideas does Scholz want to reform the European Union so that it is even able to take in a country like Ukraine? How to overcome the wheat blockade in Ukraine? How does NATO convince Turkey to allow Sweden and Finland to join? The chain of summits shouldn’t be a walk in the park for Olaf Scholz.

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