February 21. 2024. 7:14

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The Brief — New German defence minister is a surprise hit


Many were surprised when Boris Pistorius was announced as the new German defence minister, but only five weeks in, he already seems to live up to the task and has won over most of his former critics.

Managing the German Defence Ministry is not a job to envy. After decades of underfunding and neglect, the Bundeswehr is in quite a desolate condition.

Turning Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ Zeitenwende – a strategic turnaround, including a reform of the military – into a success is not an easy feat and is full of stumbling blocks that could potentially end a political career – as Pistorius’ predecessor Christine Lambrecht had to painfully experience first-hand.

However, despite his lack of experience in the defence sector, Pistorius has already surprised many with his professionalism and eagerness to drive the reform of the Bundeswehr forward.

In only about five weeks in office, he has already managed to outperform all his colleagues in the German government in approval ratings, now ranking as the most popular politician in the country.

His recent appearance at the Munich Security Conference has also been largely praised by experts.

“Pistorius, after seven days in office, looked as if he had been in office for seven years, whereas Lambrecht, after one year, looks as if she has only been in office for seven days,” Frank Sauer, a political scientist at the University of the Bundeswehr Munich, commented in the podcast Sicherheitshalber following the conference.

Pistorius also brings something to the table that many of his predecessors lacked: leadership and vision.

While Lambrecht was seen as someone standing in the shadow of Scholz, Pistorius clearly has his own agenda he is pushing for.

Where Scholz announced already last year that Germany would spend an additional €100 billion in the coming years to bring the Bundeswehr back on track, Pistorius is going one step further.

This year’s military budget is currently set at around €50 billion, but Pistorius wants to have an additional €10 billion to fully implement the reform of the Bundeswehr.

The push for more money has already divided his party colleagues.

While some in the SPD worry that an additional increase would leave the federal chests empty and unable to fund the many social projects of the coalition, other high-ranking SPD officials, like Andreas Schwarz, said such a move would be necessary to make a “noticeable” change.

It is even unclear whether Pistorius has the blessing of the chancellor for his advance. However, asked at the Munich Security Conference whether Scholz would be on board, he showed little concern.

“My post is the defence minister of Germany and I have to announce very clearly what I think is necessary for our obligations regarding the Bundeswehr and NATO,” Pistorius stated confidently.

It remains to be seen if his performance will match his ambition but so far, he has not disappointed.


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The Roundup

Three weeks before the European Commission tables its proposal to reform the EU’s electricity market, Germany’s position on the issue is still being fleshed out but initial signs already point to a looming clash with pro-reform countries like France and Spain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that he would end the war in Ukraine any time soon in his state-of-the-nation speech in Moscow on Tuesday (21 February), despite not having achieved any of his objectives nearly a year into the full-scale invasion.

The European Commission has announced new rules to harmonise the vaccination of animals against the most serious animal diseases as part of efforts to address the largest epidemic of avian flu observed in the EU so far.

The 2023 annual report from the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) found an increase in the frequency and intensity of violent acts against the LGBTQI+ community.

Latest developments on the ‘probiotics’ term saga suggest that the time is ripe for overcoming the current regulatory framework which, for more than 15 years, has hindered the EU probiotics sector from flourishing as well as restricting consumer information.

The Qatargate bribery scandal in the European Parliament could undermine the EU’s attempts to hold national governments to account for rule of law abuses, the Civil Liberties Union for Europe has warned.

The European Union’s Brexit chief said on Tuesday that the finishing line was in sight for talks on easing post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland ahead of a second successive day of discussions with his British counterparts.

The Olympic movement is facing its biggest dilemma since the Cold War: bow to demands to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes or risk the first mass boycott of the Games in 40 years.

Don’t forget to check out our Transport brief for a roundup of weekly news covering mobility from across Europe.

Look out for…

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