The Brief — Germany’s phantom chancellor – EURACTIV.com

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Amid contentious debates over mandatory vaccines and possible arms shipments to Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz seems keen to borrow Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. But his fly-under-the-radar strategy could be a deathly hallow.

So far, the stoic social democrat has managed to build success based on a simple motto: Those who do nothing at all do no harm.

But while that strategy may have served him well in an election campaign that has seen his opponents stagger from one blunder to the next, being chancellor of the world’s fourth-largest economy isn’t exactly a suitable role. to invisibility.

Domestically, the new “traffic light” government has been plagued by the conundrum of mandatory vaccines since taking office in December. While the Omicron wave has put the issue high on the agenda, a vaccine requirement is likely to be met with an angry backlash.

Scholz’s face-saving solution was to avoid the problem. Rather than deciding an official government line, the executive leaves the matter to the Bundestag, the German parliament.

While it is common practice for ethically difficult questions to be presented to MPs so that they can vote freely without party whipping, Scholz’s government goes one step further. The cabinet will not table a legislative proposal on the issue but will leave it to the parliamentary groups to draft a relevant law, if they so wish.

Whatever the final decision of the Bundestag, the impression left on the Germans is that their Chancellor slips away as soon as the going gets tough.

Perhaps more consequential, Scholz also took his cover-up policy to the world stage.

In the face of Russian saber-thrusts on the Ukrainian border, Germany may have had the chance to step up and show its strength and unity with its Western partners. But again, Scholz remained decidedly evasive on key issues.

Is Germany ready to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine? If necessary, can the EU and the United States count on Germany to take advantage of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline for sanctions?

The answer is a resounding “maybe”.

‘Obviously’ the chancellor would stop the launch of Nord Stream 2 in the event of Russian aggression against Ukraine, because that’s the ‘only rational decision’, former Social Democrat vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told TV channel . Deutschlandfunk in a recent interview, although Scholz himself made somewhat contradictory statements.

Whether or not one chooses to follow Gabriel’s reasoning, needing a thought reader to understand the government’s position on key issues is not an ideal situation.

The damage caused by Scholz’s about-face goes beyond the cracks in the unity of the German coalition and risks alienating its allies in Europe and around the world. European and NATO partners, not least Ukraine itself, need to know if they can count on Germany.

It also risks signaling to Putin that the West is not united – and thus encouraging his ambitions.

Facing global concerns, the leader of the EU’s most populous country would be well advised to stop relying on magic tricks.


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Last but not least, check out our Transport Brief for a roundup of weekly news.

Pay attention to…

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen takes part in the College of Commissioners meeting
  • Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, Vice-President Josep Borrell and Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen participate in the EU-G5 Ministerial meeting on the Sahel
  • Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in San Francisco to meet with representatives from Google/Youtube, Apple and Meta/Whatsapp, TikTok

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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]

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