Olaf Scholz: Germany’s new chancellor makes first official trip to Brussels

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Olaf Scholz made his first visit to Brussels as German chancellor on Friday.

Scholz was voted in as Angela Merkel’s successor earlier this week and will lead a three-party coalition government.

He met with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel in Brussels.

During a joint press conference with the Commission chief, Scholz stressed that the parties in his coalition government are all pro-European.

A former finance minister, Scholz also highlighted how he and von der Leyen have known each other and worked together “for a long time”, having been in two different German cabinets together.

The Commission chief, a protégée of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former minister of defense and of labour and social affairs, said Brussels has “positive expectations towards the new German government” due to its “strong pro-European” agenda.

She pointed out that there will “always be issues that we will have to discuss” but that “being pro-European us a pre-condition we very much welcome.”

Scholz said his government wants “to ensure a strong, sovereign European union” and elaborate a closely coordinated strategy when it comes to foreign policy to ensure that security and defence in Europe can be successful and that any threat towards any individual country is not tolerated.”

He said he was “concerned” about the situation along the Ukrainian border and stated that “it has to be our responsibility to ensure that everyone can feel safe within their borders.”

But he remained vague when asked whether he would consider suspending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will supply natural gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea as a possible sanction against Russia.

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Von der Leyen also skirted the issue saying the Commission has presented the Council with a range of options on Russia.

“Any aggression has to come at a price, and that is why we will communicate these points to Russia but we’ll not be making them public,” she told reporters, adding that “it’s important to state that energy can never be a means of exerting pressure.”

Scholz’s visit to Brussels will conclude in the evening following that meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Earlier in the day, Scholz met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The two leaders discussed the EU economy, the buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border, and migratory pressures at the EU borders.

Their meeting came a day after Macron unveiled his priority for the French six-month presidency of the EU which will start on January 1, 2022.

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