PICTURE on SUNDAY: Mr Chancellor, What is missing in Germany?
Olaf Scholz: “Germany is a country with great economic power and a very well-functioning welfare state. But we're lacking a bit of pace. We need more impetus for innovations and for the modernization of our industry, so that we 2045 be able to operate in a climate-neutral manner.”
Before that, however, you still have to take care of the shortage in the Bundeswehr. The inspector of the army warns, his troops stand there blank. Is he right?
Scholz: “His warning is almost a year old, a lot has happened since then. Immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I have a special fund of 100 billion euros on the way, so that the Bundeswehr is properly equipped again after many years of saving.
And we will now permanently invest two percent of our economic output in our armed forces, because the security situation in Europe has changed massively.
For me it's important: The Bundeswehr is a great force, that keeps our country safe. When it comes to, ward off possible attacks on NATO territory in Europe, the Bundeswehr with its conventional fighting power plays an important role.”
Scholz: “Tanks cannot simply be ordered from a dealer like a new car, because the devices are nowhere ready to be picked up. The state must agree on long-term supply contracts with industry, so that the manufacturers invest in permanent production.
And the purchase of weapon systems is less often about custom-made products, but more often about off-the-shelf systems’ – that speeds up procurement.”
Scholz: "No, Putin didn't threaten me or Germany. In our phone calls, our very different points of view on the war in Ukraine become very clear.
I make Putin very clear, that Russia has sole responsibility for the war. For no reason, Russia invaded its neighboring country, to grab parts of Ukraine or the whole country.
We can't just accept that, because it fundamentally violates the European peace order. That is why we support Ukraine financially, humanitarian and also with arms.”
Putin claims, that “German tanks again” would threaten Russia. The delivery of Leopard 2 tanks increases the danger for Germany?
Scholz: “His words stand in a series of abstruse historical comparisons, which he uses, to justify his attack on Ukraine. Nothing can justify this war. Russia is waging a merciless war against Ukraine.
Together with our allies, we are handing over main battle tanks to Ukraine, so that she can defend herself. We have carefully weighed each shipment of weapons, closely coordinated with our allies, especially with America. This joint approach prevents the war from escalating.”
They are accused of a lack of courage and excessive procrastination in supplying arms to Ukraine. How much does that annoy you?
Scholz: “Most citizens hope, that your chancellor is not impressed by such comments. I swore an oath of office, take it very seriously and can assure you: We keep our nerves and will continue to weigh all decisions very carefully in the future. Anything else would be careless and extremely dangerous.”
Is there an agreement with President Zelenskyy, that weapons from the West will only be used on Ukrainian territory and will not be used to attack Russia on its territory?
Scholz: "There is a consensus on that."
Ukraine wants to join the EU, preferably until the end 2024. Consider that realistic?
Scholz: "It was a strong signal, that we made Moldova and Ukraine candidate countries last summer. Each candidate must meet the necessary criteria, to become a member of the EU – there are issues of the rule of law, of democracy, Respect for human rights and fight against corruption.”
There is no war bonus for Ukraine?
Scholz: "The requirements for joining are the same for everyone."
How is Germany now?, a year after the start of the war, and?
Scholz: “Our country has come through this difficult time much better, than many feared. I remember some horror scenarios, that was to read: of a winter of rage with mass protests, of cold apartments and freezing people in Germany, from an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions.
The good news is: None of that happened. The federal government has taken a strong stance against the impending crisis – and averted it. We have aid packages with a volume of 300 billion euros tied up, with it company, Citizens with the high gas- and electricity prices.
We built new LNG terminals on the north German coast in record time and signed new supply contracts, after Russia stopped supplying gas. The crisis has shown, what Germany is capable of.”
Also give the all-clear for the coming winter?
Scholz: “If nothing unforeseen happens, i'm confident, for next winter. However, we will now use the momentum of the past few months, the Germany pace, to make real headway in the expansion of wind power and solar energy, so that we become less dependent on importing fossil gas, coal or oil.”
In 2022 hardly any additional wind turbines were built. How many do you have to do this year?, so that the energy transition can work?
Scholz: “We are approaching the expansion with military precision: We are currently creating a timetable, what has to be built by when on new systems, so that we can set our goals for 2030 to reach.
There will then be a meeting with the countries every month, how far they have progressed. Which is not done on time, must be caught up. Bis 2030 there will be an average of four to five wind turbines every day on land.”
All this is not enough for the climate stickers, they want to paralyze Germany from Monday. How understanding do you have of this kind of protest?
Scholz: “A lot of citizens shake their heads at such actions. Me too. They are counterproductive.”
Bayer wants to relocate its pharmaceutical business to the USA and China, Linde has left the Dax, Biontech thinks about it, to go to the UK with the cancer division. The BDI warns of de-industrialization in Germany. Is it all just scaremongering??
Scholz: "As you sum it up, and."
Scholz: “Our task for Germany as a business location is clear: get more speed, Make approvals faster. The new Germany pace should not only apply to the construction of LNG terminals, but for all projects.
And we have to advance digitization and data processing. It can not be, that German medical technology companies use the data from Mexico City's hospitals, because they are not allowed to use German data.”
Who deserves dumb and dimwitted, are the big corporations. The oil multinational Shell has 2022 fabulous 40 made billions of dollars in profit. Also for RWE, VW and BMW has 2022 brought big profits. And what about the wages?
Scholz: “It remains the responsibility of employers, that the employees get through this time well. That's why we created the opportunity, that every company now offers its employees a special payment of up to 3000 can give euros, which is tax-free and duty-free. Many companies have made use of it. I can only encourage the economy, that more follow these examples.”
Child poverty is 2022 on over 20 percent increased. A record. Is that your biggest omission in the first year of government??
Scholz: “No – we have done a lot for middle and lower incomes in particular. But it is clear, that we don't want to put up with it, that in a country as rich as Germany children live in poverty.
That is why we are currently developing the concept of basic child security. She will take care of that, that all help reaches the children automatically - without many extra requests from the parents. And we are expanding all-day care, so parents can go to work.”
In reality, daycare centers are reducing their opening hours everywhere in Germany, because educators are missing.
Scholz: "The Profession of Educator, of the educator must become more attractive, so that more young people take up this profession - and also remain loyal to it in the long term.
The same applies to teachers, where there is also a major shortage. That also means: Universities must expand their capacities quickly.”
But there is a lack of employees everywhere. Where do you want to get the skilled workers from??
Scholz: „Bis 2030 we need six million additional workers on the German labor market. To do this, we need a whole bundle of measures: We need more attractive working conditions for parents with small children, so that we can increase the employment of mothers and fathers. We need to organize more support for the transition from school to training.
And who with middle 50 loses his job, gets the chance through qualification, to find a similarly well-paying job. But all of this alone will not be enough, we also need specialists from non-European countries.
For this we create the most modern immigration law. We will pass the necessary laws before the end of this year. I am confident, that the number of people in work in Germany will increase and so will the growth rates of our economy."
With more immigration, we don't have to talk about more consistent deportations?
Scholz: “If Germany guarantees people protection, who are being followed, must those, who cannot claim this protection, go back to their home country.
The prerequisite for this is, that the home countries also take back their compatriots, there is still often a problem with that. We must now resolutely solve this great task. In return, we open up legal channels, so that specialists from these countries can come to us.”
The federal government has been saying this for a long time.
Scholz: "We don't just talk, but act: The Federal Government has had its own Migration Commissioner since this week, Joachim Stamp. It is his job, to negotiate such agreements with the countries of origin.”
Krieg, Inflation, Energy – You sound very optimistic despite the crises.
Scholz: "The situation is not easy at the moment, and i understand, that many are worried. But I'm also convinced, that our country has a good future ahead of it. The past year has proven, what we are capable of.
And we know very well, what to do now: Expansion of wind power and solar energy, Conversion of industry to climate neutrality, and more social cohesion. We're going to do all of that now. I am positive: Germany is emerging from the crisis stronger.”
In December you are 25 Married to your wife Britta Ernst for years. what does that mean to you?
Scholz: “Love for my wife is the most important thing in my life. I am really looking forward to our silver wedding anniversary.”
Are you celebrating?
Scholz: “And, albeit a few days later, because the federal party convention of the SPD falls on our wedding anniversary.”