In this edition that covers the last two weeks, we have summarized a key-not speech on the future of Europe, held by Olaf Scholz on the 29th of august in Prague. We will also talk about the dispute between the NATO-allies, Greece and Turkey, about the discussion on allowed EU-entry for Russian citizens and much more.
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Focus: Olaf Scholz’ view on the future of Europe – Speech in Prague, August 2022
On the 29th of August this year, the German chancellor Olaf Scholz held a key-not speech about his view of a European future at Charles-University in Prague. He emphasized however, that he came as a member of the European Council of the European Union (and not as German chancellor), therefore preparing for his coming propositions and visions for the EU.
Scholz summarized the political actions that Europe underwent during the past month regarding the war in Ukraine, with “far-reaching sanctions on Putin’s Russia with unprecedented resolve and speed”, solidarity towards Ukrainian war-refugees and a new alignment and organisation for energetic autonomy being mentioned as three of the key-efforts to that lead up to a more “sovereign Europe”.
To talk about how the lessons learned and his concrete propositions for the European Union for the coming months and years, Scholz said the following:
“It is only natural to my mind that Germany must deliver proposals to this end [inefficient European organisation] and also move with the times itself.”
This phrase being the exact opposite of what Scholz proclaims with his current weapon-delivery policy regarding Ukraine, he builds his argumentation towards European sovereignty on three main pillars:
Expansion and integration – economic independence and climate neutrality – efficient defence organisation for the EU – Migration
Expressing himself favourably for a further expansion of the European Union, with 30 or even 36 member states, Scholz showed himself sensible to the fact that the centre will shift to the east of the Union, with Germany with its geographical position losing its oftenly-said catchphrase to be situated in the “heart of Europe”. Concretely, the western Western Balkan, Moldova, Ukraine and even Georgia were mentioned for the expansion. This wouldn´t come without any need to reforms on the institutional level: The restricted efficiency of the unanimity votum was mentioned, along with the possibility of a newly structured European Commission.
This shift for the centre to east also raises the question, if the EU-institutions are still practically well placed in eastern France, Belgium and Luxembourg, or should change site at some point as well.
Regarding economic independence, Scholz mentioned many very concrete examples where Europe is either in strong dependency of other countries or companies and/or shows not enough initiative to become one of the leading. Examples such as mineral resource production, energy production the production of technical parts were mentioned, as well the importance of cooperation of the EU with their leading European companies. Following Olaf Scholz, Europe should take a pioneer role in technological development and production and to cite Olaf Scholz referring to the space-sector: “That’s part of the reason why, in the interests of a strong, competitive European space sector, we need to promote such innovative businesses alongside the established players. Only then will there be a chance of the next SpaceX being a company from Europe. “
Also mentioned was the European energetic dependency on other parts of the world, such as Russia for gas and the Middle East for Oil. Ambitions to develop the renewable energy production, therefore utilizing the European continents diverse geography for different methods of energy production were mentioned to reach the “great goal of becoming a climate-neutral European Union by 2050”.
By referring to his own country, Germany, Olaf Scholz addresses the “uncoordinated shrinkage of European armed forces and defence budgets”. He positions himself for a closer military cooperation, regarding the industry, but also the unification of equipment and the creation of a Headquarters of European armed forces, especially with the plan for the European rapid response force in mind. Regarding presidents Macron council-presidency in the first half of 2022 under the flag of European sovereignty in security and defence, Scholz explains that “NATO remains the guarantor of our security. It is also true to say, however, that every improvement, every step towards greater compatibility between European defence structures within the framework of the EU, strengthens NATO”, therefore finding a fair middle ground in the discussion.
It remains to be seen if this speech will lead the way for necessary reforms, new political thinking and if it will be remembered like the famous Sorbonne-speech, by the French president Macron that set the tone for the following French council presidency on the EU defence and security sovereignty as early as 2017.
One principle that Scholz mentions as he talks about the political development during the Covid crises, definitely should come out on top and should be followed in general, as it should be applied as a general rule for all political thinking in the EU:
“Ideology gave way to pragmatism”
Conflict between two NATO members: Greece and Türkiye
The ongoing rhetorical aggressions in the conflict between Greece and Türkiye have been taken to another level. After the height of the dispute about mineral resources in the Mediterranean Sea in 2020 and a Greek Anti-Aircraft-System supposedly locking on to a Turkish F-16 patrolling the Mediterranean, Turkish resident Erdogan stated on the 3rd of September: that Türkiye would “do what is necessary” when the time comes. The Greek should know that the Turkish could “come suddenly, in the middle of the night” and that “Izmir should not be forgotten.”
Thereby, he referred to the invasion of the Izmir in 1922, when Ottoman forces invaded the harbour-city on the now Turkish coast and caught the Greek by surprise. Before that, in 1919, Greece had forcefully taken the city themselves. Both times, the military massacred civilians. In the Treaty of Lausanne, that settled conflict between the then Ottoman Empire and a number of Entente-members (among them Greece), the city was accorded to Türkiye and has been their state territory ever since. By threatening now with a similar event on Greek isles, President Erdogan pulls out of the dust an affair that has long been settled. With this kind of behaviour, one can doubt his intentions in a friendly settled solution, between allies.
All national differences aside, NATO, of course, has an interest to keep their members in content with one another, while Russia is invading neighbouring countries.
Germany goes back to normal with MINUSMA
The German army has reinitiated their reconnaissance operations from the military Camp Castor, situated at the Gao international airport. After the effective French retreat from the region over the last months and problems with the arrival of African forces to protect the Camp from attacks, the stationed reconnaissance company had to fulfil this job instead of their planned one. Now that an El Salvadorian helicopter detachment has been transferred to Gao, the German reconnaissance company can resume with their work.
German Minister for foreign affairs Annalena Baerbock stated however, that the staying of the German troops could be difficult, if Mali shouldn’t show reliable cooperation with their allies.
With the constant problems around troop-rotations between Germany and Mali, it will therefore be interesting, and possibly concerning, to follow, how the transfer home for that exact reconnaissance company that is due for the end of September this year, will take place.
Will the KF-51 MBT clash the European main battle tank program, MGCS?
The Main Ground Combat System, or MGCS, is one of the main defence cooperation programme between France and Germany, with the FCAS. Leadership was divided between both, Germany for the MGCS, France for the FCAS.
On the industrial side, Nexter and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann created a joined venture, KNDS to serve as framework for the development of this battle tank. However, at Germany’s request, Rheinmetall has since then been introduced in the cooperation, changing the initial balance of the workshare and creating some blocking points, such as the gun technology. For example, both Nexter and Rheinmetall have a new generation canon they want to integrate on the vehicle. The project is currently blocked in the definition phase.
In the meantime, both partners have presented concepts of future battle tanks during Eurosatory 2022: the KF-51 Panther for Rheinmetall and the EMBT (Enhanced Main Battle Tank) for KNDS.
The KF-51 Panther has been built as a response to the Russian T-14 and the Korean K-2 Black Panther that recently won an important contract in Poland. Developed for a closer horizon than the MGCS, before 2030 instead of 2040, it may also fit the need for Germany to replace their Leopard in the near future. And Rheinmetall engaged in very proactive campaign with officials and its CEO to install this idea.
The EMBT, on the other side, is a combination of the Leopard’s chassis and the Leclerc’s turret. Presented in 2018, it was also aimed a response to short term needs as well as an intermediate step before the MGCS. However, since then, the evolutions of this first concept have been publicly discreet. A new campaign was recently launched based on the ASCALON, a new concept of a high energy and storage gun, and the necessity of this programme for building the MGCS technological bricks.
This competition between partners does not tend towards a solving of the current situation.
Europe discusses the allowed entry of Russian citizens. What are the arguments?
In the beginning of September, the Baltic States, alongside Finland and Sweden, have decided to restrict the entry of Russian citizens in their territories.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, no more planes from Russia are authorized to land in Europe. Therefore, one of the main ways for Russians to enter the European Union is through the roads via the neighboring countries. In addition, a visa agreement between the EU and Russia is still in force. According to Frontex, since February, around 1 million of Russian citizens have entered the EU legally.
However, many countries have decided to tackle the subject. Estonia has recently cancelled 50.000 visas of Russian citizens. The Danish Foreign Minister, Jeppe Kofod, underlined that “it is a provocation to see Russian tourists on the beaches of Europe or in the cafes of European capitals”.
No coordinated EU-wide restrictions have been decided yet, as there are some discussions on the opportunity of such a ban. Even if there is a consensus to have some exceptions, for humanitarian and family reasons, or for students, the German Foreign Minister, Annanela Baerbock, also stated for example that the contact must be held with the Russians that are not on Putin’s side. The two main actions undertaken so far are therefore first, some multilateral decisions by coordinated Member States, and second, the suspension of the current visa agreement by a vote of the Member States in the first week of September. Depending on their impact, a complete ban may come again on the table.
External operations and military cooperations
The first troops for the enhanced forward brigade have arrived in Lithuania
In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the German strategy on its deployment in the NATO Eastern Flank was mainly to reinforce its existing partnerships, instead of creating others. The two countries they were invested in were Lithuania and Romania in the frame of the enhanced Forward Battle Group. In Lithuania, already 1500 German soldiers were stationed.
In June, the German Federal Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, agreed with the Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda on the set-up of a brigade-level unit there, namely the 41st tank brigade of the German 1st tank division. In the end, however, only the staff and command structure will be stationed permanently in the country. Indeed, deploying a whole brigade force in the area, with 3.000 to 5.000 soldiers and their families, was not possible yet without the accommodation and education structures needed.
The first elements of this brigade staff arrived on September 3rd in Lithuania via a ferry in Kiel, and a commissioning ceremony with the German Defence Minister, Christine Lambrecht, will be organized.