German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday said that Russia's attack on Ukraine was the biggest challenge facing Germany and the world at the present time.
Scholz made the comments at a summer press conference that became an annual tradition under his predecessor, Angela Merkel.
What did Scholz say?
Scholz said that Germany had broken with the tradition of not supplying weapons to conflict zones by delivering arms to Ukraine to help it fight the Russian invading forces.
"We will continue doing this in the coming period," Scholz said.
Scholz doubled down on a previous statement that Russia's invasion represented a historical turning point, saying that Moscow's actions harked back to 19th century political concepts of aggressive territorial appropriation.
He said that "the Russian president bears responsibility for this war," but declined to respond to a question about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin should have to personally answer for his actions.
Scholz said that as the war was "Putin's war," he was not at all keen on banning all Russians from receiving tourist visas for the EU, as has been demanded by countries such as Estonia and Ukraine itself.
Any end to the war, Scholz said, must be on Ukraine's conditions, and not dictated by Russia.
When asked whether former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has close ties with the Russian regime, could be of any help as an intermediary, Scholz said, "Not that I know of."
Schröder, a party colleague of Scholz, was chancellor between 1998 and 2005. He has been
criticized for years for his involvement with Russian state-owned companies and is considered a close personal friend of Putin.
Turning to domestic concerns, the chancellor said his government wanted to provide relief to all sectors of society in view of rising energy prices.
"There will be another package," he said, referring to measures that have already been introduced.
He said that the government would "do everything" to help particularly people on low or medium incomes "to get through this difficult time."
He called the planned package of tax-reduction measures by Finance Minister Christian Lindner "very helpful" in this regard, and said pensioners and students would also receive help.
Scholz said he did not expect social unrest in Germany triggered by the high energy prices, saying that the country's welfare schemes would prevent this.
The chancellor also supported the return of Germany's "debt brake," which constitutionally forbids the federal government to run a structural deficit of more than 0.35% of GDP except in emergencies.
The debt brake is already included in the 2023 budget plan by Finance Minister Christian Lindner after being suspended from 2020 to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic and this year's war in Ukraine.
Correcting previous 'failures' on energy
Scholz criticized what he said were failed energy policies of previous German governments, though he himself was a member of the last coalition government as finance minister.
"We working our way through all the failures of the past years, which were really big in this sector," he said.
He said that although there had been joint decisions on dropping coal and nuclear energy sources, there had been none on a rapid modernization of German industry.
He said his government had already launched a number of legislative packages, for example, to allow quick development of wind energy on land and at sea.
The chancellor also said he was pushing for the development of an energy pipeline from Portugal and Spain via France to central Europe. He said a new pipeline would make "a massive contribution to relieving and easing the supply situation."
A similar project, called MidCat, planned from Spain to southern France was abandoned several years ago because it was considered uneconomical.
Scholz during his speech also promised German industry an affordable energy supply, in particular electricity and hydrogen from renewable sources.
The chancellor also confirmed that two planned LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals on the North Sea coast would be ready to accept deliveries by winter.
tj/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)