Germany’s Scholz Warns Of Crumbling Ukraine Support Ahead Of EU Summit

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By Nick Alipour

(EurActiv) — In unusually frank words towards Hungary, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz voiced concerns over stalling Ukraine aid efforts and floated the idea of relaxing unanimity voting requirements in the Council on Wednesday (13 December), ahead of a crucial EU summit in Brussels.

EU leaders are under pressure this week to pass a financial aid package for Ukraine at their final summit of the year. However, they are facing tough negotiations as Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán threatens to block a deal, both on aid for Ukraine and on opening accession talks with Kyiv.

“[Russian President] Vladimir Putin bets on international support for Ukraine fading,” Scholz told the German Bundestag on Wednesday, just before heading to Brussels to participate in the EU summit.

“The danger that this strategy could ultimately work out cannot be denied,” he said.

Majority voting on enlargement

Unusually candid in tone, Scholz explicitly called out Budapest, arguing that “almost all” EU member states wanted to provide the designated amount of €50 billion in financial aid while “Hungary in particular has not agreed yet”.

He also showed concern at a similar blockade that is plaguing the United States, Ukraine’s biggest donor country, as US Congress is haggling over the next tranche of aid to Kyiv.

“There is no solution in sight yet,” he added.

With regard to the EU, Scholz reiterated his previous stance that there needed to be more decision-making by qualified majority in the EU, especially when it comes to the enlargement process, to avoid that single countries such as Hungary could wield an outsized veto.

Most EU member states want to open accession talks with Ukraine at this week’s summit but are being blocked by Hungary, Russia’s closest ally in the EU.

“I am pushing for more decisions to be taken by a qualified majority, including in the accession process,” Scholz told German parliamentarians.

“National parliaments would still have the final say, but a single country would no longer be able to block every single step,” he said.

German funding secured

Meanwhile, Germany’s coalition government announced earlier on Wednesday that its own budget problems, which were also threatening to complicate EU budget and aid negotiations were mostly resolved.

Last month, the country’s constitutional court declared the government’s use of a €60 billion special fund unconstitutional, punching a hole into its budget planning.

As part of the deal struck between the coalition parties, around €8 billion earmarked for direct bilateral aid as well as €6 billion in aid for Ukrainian refugees were secured.

Berlin is also prepared to suspend its controversial debt brake, which limits the government’s annual borrowing, to support Ukraine with further means if “the situation in the field was deteriorating”, Scholz told MPs.

However, the opposition remained sceptical at Scholz’s display of support, pointing to his delayed decision to supply weapons to Ukraine, up to his ongoing refusal to deliver Taurus cruise missiles.  

“The [difficult] situation [in Ukraine] also has something to do with your hesitancy to provide the military equipment it has urgently needed for months,” Friedrich Merz, leader of the main opposition, the centre-right CDU, said in parliament.

Scholz relieved at Tusk’s return

However, both the German government and the opposition were united in welcoming the return of Donald Tusk (KO/EPP) to the post of Poland’s prime minister this week after almost a decade of rule by the nationalist PiS party put the country on collision course with Brussels.

“Tusk has announced that he will lead Poland back to the heart of the European Union and that is exactly where Poland belongs,” Scholz said as he congratulated Tusk and invited him to Berlin “in the weeks to come”.

Tusk would be an “indispensable” partner given Poland’s important contribution to European security policy at the bloc’s eastern flanks, the chancellor said, adding that it was the government’s intention to intensify the collaboration with Poland and France within the Weimar Triangle format.

The rising importance that Germany assigns to Poland as a European partner was also underlined earlier this week when the largest opposition party CDU made closer coordination with the country a core tenet of its first new party manifesto since 2007.

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