February 21. 2024. 7:29

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The Brief — Scholz’s monumental Zeitenwende has become a mere buzzword


What followed was the promise to invest €100 billion into the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, to permanently live up to NATO’s 2% expenditure targets and put German foreign policy on a more realistic footing.

However, a year later, it seems that, while the world has inevitably changed, Germany has, in many regards, still remained the same. While Scholz’s speech at the time felt like an attempt to claim leadership within the EU, the last year has shown that Germany was too slow to readjust its course.

Despite the promises to boost funding of the Bundeswehr, the German military is probably in the worst shape it has been in decades.

While the weapons deliveries to Ukraine are slowly depleting the Bundeswehr’s stocks, the government has failed to buy new equipment: According to the Federal Association of the German Security and Defence Industry, the arms industry received virtually no additional orders in the past year.

Germany will also fail to live up to the NATO targets in the foreseeable future. According to government estimates, defence expenses will only inch up by around 0.1% this year.

Instead, he left the stage to the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Rolf Mützenich, who has often been criticised for his conciliatory stance towards Russia.

While Mützenich admitted he had made some mistakes in the past, he also strongly defended the Russia policy of his party.

“The policy of détente does not bear responsibility for the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces,” Mützenich stated yesterday

While Scholz also announced a complete overhaul of the German foreign and security policy, it seems his own party is still seeking to justify its former stances. And Mützenich is not alone.

Another major panellist in yesterday’s event was Ralf Stegner, who has recently indirectly compared the criticism towards the SPD’s Russia policy to the rhetoric in the Third Reich.

According to Stegner, “the debate on Russia policy of recent decades has taken on an opinionated, know-it-all and irreconcilable culture war tone.”

“The rhetoric is sometimes frighteningly reminiscent of the times 80-108 years ago,” he said in a Facebook post.

Only one year after the announcement of the Zeitenwende, it seems that not much is left of Scholz’s grand ambition to steer around the steamship that is Germany’s foreign and security policy.

Tomorrow he will hold another speech in the Bundestag – just like he did a year ago when he first announced the Zeitenwende.

It remains to be seen whether he can convincingly demonstrate that he is still serious about the project that has already defined his chancellorship.


The Roundup

The European Commission will present “targeted” proposals by mid-March to overhaul the EU’s electricity market, the bloc’s energy chief said on Monday (27 February), adding that the reform will focus on long-term power contracts for industry to mitigate price volatility.

Germany will abstain in the final vote on the EU’s de-facto ban on new petrol or diesel cars as of 2035 unless the EU Commission proposes how new combustion engine cars can be registered even after that date if they run exclusively on e-fuels.

Germany’s abstention also dominates this week’s Transport Brief, which brings you a round-up of essential transport news.

The European Commission has issued a rare revision of its initial findings in a competition inquiry looking at Apple’s App Store practices, dropping half of the original charges.

The ban on social scoring has been extended to private companies, regulatory sandboxes could be used to demonstrate compliance, and the AI Office’s role has been downsized in a whopping new set of compromise amendments to the upcoming AI Act.

Despite efforts to encourage the uptake of integrated pest management (IPM) techniques and reduce the risks associated with the use of pesticides, it has struggled to take off in Romania.

The number of farms implementing integrated pest management (IPM) in Italy has skyrocketed over the past few years. EURACTIV Italy spoke with Donato Rotundo from farmers’ association Confagricoltura to learn more about the impact this has had and how this success can be built upon.

The Swedish presidency of the EU Council has circulated a new compromise text of the Cyber Resilience Act, obtained by EURACTIV, touching upon the relation with other EU laws, the notifying authorities, enforcement and penalties.

Look out for…

  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen receives Minister-President of the Federal State of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil.
  • Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski in Paris, participates in meetings with EU Affairs Committee of French Senate.
  • Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius meets with Peru’s Environment Minister Albina Ruiz.
  • Joint meeting of Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.