The EU should work ‘at eye level’ with countries in Asia, Africa and South America

President Olaf Schaals addresses the European Parliament.Image by ANP / EPA

Scholes spoke there on Europe Day, when French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman unveiled his plans for a European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor to the European Union, on 9 May 1950. On the same day, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, paid a symbolic visit to Kyiv.

Scholes’ speech was heralded as a ‘fundamental’ speech on Europe, as French President Macron wants to deliver. In contrast to Macron’s grandiose ambitions, Scholes placed modesty above all else. Macron wants Europe to become “strategically autonomous” to create a “third pole” in a trilateral world with the US and China as a global power.

On the other hand, Olaf Scholes made Europe smaller. He quoted the French writer Paul Valéry: ‘Will Europe really become what it is: a small precursor, a cape of the Asian landscape.’

Only 5 percent of humanity lives in Europe, while Asia, Africa and South America are gaining weight, Scholz says. Developing countries in other parts of the world will not settle into a bipolar or tripolar world, says Scholes. “That’s why I’m convinced: the world of the 21st century will be diverse – and it has been for a long time.”

Free Trade Agreements

Europe is vulnerable because it is relatively poor in raw materials and heavily dependent on world trade. That is why Europe needs to work ‘at eye level’ with countries in Asia, Africa and South America, says Scholes. “It makes sense to sign new free trade agreements with the Mercosur countries in South America, with Mexico, with India, with Indonesia, with Australia, Kenya and many other countries,” said Schales. This is how Europe continues its colonial legacy.

In recent years, closing such deals has become more difficult. Not only did they face criticism from the nationalist right, but also from the left who felt that the environment and animal rights were not adequately protected. A deal with Mercosur countries has eased after far-right Brazilian President Bolsonaro lost the election.

Keep the line with China open

According to Scholz, such agreements are essential, especially since Europe does not want to become dependent on China. The chancellor said that by concluding free trade agreements with other countries, Europe could diversify its supply channels.

Scholes wanted to keep the relationship with China open. Like European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, she is not in favor of decoupling the Chinese and European economies, but rather in favor of reducing excessive dependence on China.

In Scholz’s multipolar world, one pole is of particular importance: America. Scholz distanced himself from French President Macron, who recently said in a controversial interview that Europe should not be the ‘slave’ of America. The French president has been heavily criticized for distancing himself from an ally on which Europe relies heavily militarily. Scholz positioned himself behind the US: ‘The US is Europe’s most important ally.’

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