The autumn summit of the European Council had “taken place in turbulent and highly unsettling times,” said Federal Chancellor Scholz after two days of discussion. The summit had focussed strongly on foreign policy issues: “This is what the world needs.” The situations in Ukraine and the Middle East were among the most important topics discussed.
Clear position of the European Union concerning the war in the Middle East
The Federal Chancellor stressed once again that the resolutions regarding the Middle East were “very, very important”. He added that the key point was that a joint decision had been made, despite the obvious fact that there were various different views and perspectives on the issue. These decisions gave rise to joint priorities, and among these was the resolution to “strengthen Israel’s right of self-defence following the terrorist attack, as well as to do everything to prevent a further escalation,” Scholz explained. He went on to say that the hostages must be released without any preconditions, and that the required amount of urgently needed humanitarian aid supplies, such as water, food and medical goods, had to be taken to Gaza. “These aspects are key when it comes to the action we are taking now,” Scholz pointed out. The Federal Chancellor said that he was glad about the debate but even more so about the “clear stance the European Union has taken”.
The heads of state and government called for a peace conference for the Middle East in their conclusions, and the Federal Chancellor believed this to be a good sign, “since this is about making use of the possibilities of diplomacy”. However, he also pointed out that this approach could only work if all involved are willing to participate.
A horrible war with horrible damage in Ukraine
The European Council also addressed the latest developments of the Russian offensive against Ukraine. It was “a horrible war with horrible damage in Ukraine,” with destruction on an unbelievable scale and in which “many citizens of all ages have lost their lives,” Scholz said. President Zelensky took part in the summit via video link and described the current situation from his point of view.
The member states stood firmly by Ukraine’s side to make sure that Putin’s “imperialist plan” to expand his territory will not succeed, and would continue to provide humanitarian and financial aid, Scholz stated, adding that “this also includes arms deliveries by a number of member states”. It was clear in this context, he said, that financial support for Ukraine “must be borne jointly”.
Another issue discussed was the EU budget and what is known as the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. The Commission had suggested revising and increasing the budget. The EU has faced many challenges since the adoption of the budget back in 2020: from the consequences of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine through to accelerated inflation and higher interest rates.
The Federal Chancellor pointed out that additional funds for supporting Ukraine were “naturally” required, but that new “financial responsibilities” should be realised primarily through “reprioritisation and shifts” in the EU budget. Little work had been done in this respect to date, he added, which was why this task had to be addressed more intensively. He explained that a central review was required of how the considerable existing funds can be used differently and how this can produce some leeway for new responsibilities.
Preventing irregular entry into Europe
There had been a strong consensus concerning the issue of migration and the goal to “prevent irregular entry into Europe in order to reduce irregular migration,” Scholz said. At the European level, the primary task was to complete the reform of the European asylum system within this legislative period of the European Parliament, he explained, adding that agreements with countries of origin and transit were also crucial. This was on the one hand about facilitating legal forms of immigration for much-needed skilled workers, and on the other hand about ensuring that those who cannot stay in the European states are able to return to their countries of origin or to transit countries unbureaucratically and without any major obstacles, he said. All countries that are willing to cooperate had something to gain here, Scholz pointed out, which was why this topic would be “a central issue” for the European Union, too.
A reduction of red tape is key to promoting competitiveness
The heads of state and government wish to promote the European economy and to improve the European Union’s competitiveness, and the Federal Chancellor believes that a reduction of red tape is vital in this respect. He expects the European Commission to present its suggestions for accelerating planning and approval procedures.
In their meeting in Hamburg, the German and French cabinets had agreed to send their own suggestions to Brussels and to “relentlessly pursue this issue”.