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POLITICS

German armed forces must become Europe’s ‘best equipped’, says Scholz

Germany is ready to take a leading role in ensuring Europe's security, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday, vowing to turn its armed forces into the "best equipped" on the continent.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a statement on Tuesday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Soeren Stache

Underlining that Vladimir Putin’s Russia now poses the “biggest threat” to NATO, Scholz said Europe has to be prepared to face up to the challenge.

“We are making it convincingly clear: Germany is ready to take on leading responsibility for the security of our continent,” he said at an army congress.

“As the most populous country with the greatest economic power and as a country in the middle of the continent, our army must become the cornerstone of conventional defence in Europe, the best equipped force in Europe.”

Scholz said the German army had for too long taken on other roles like “drilling wells, ensuring humanitarian help, stemming floods, also helping with vaccinations during the pandemic”.

“But that is not your core mission,” he said. “The core task of the Bundeswehr is the defence of freedom in Europe.”

Haunted by two world wars, Germany has always trod lightly and quietly on the world stage when it came to conflicts and military matters.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Scholz’s government to tear up long held defence and foreign policies.

Days after Russia soldiers marched into Ukraine, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($113-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

The financial bazooka for the Bundeswehr has since been written into the German constitution.

Europe’s biggest economy will also bring military spending to two percent of gross domestic product after years of underinvestment that has irked NATO partners.

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POLITICS

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP

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