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Olaf Scholz: Who the “peace chancellor” wants to take on

Olaf Scholz: Who the “peace chancellor” wants to take on

The Chancellor is demonstratively opposing all enemies of freedom and is supporting his message with a tough message to foreigners who commit serious criminal offenses. The only question is: can he deliver?

Olaf Scholz places his central message right at the beginning of his speech, which is neither loud nor lively, but rather statesmanlike and determined: “Whoever attacks our freedom and disturbs our peace has me as his most determined opponent.”

The level-headed peace chancellor is redefining himself, not only in foreign policy, but now also in domestic policy. He is declaring himself the final enemy of all enemies of freedom who threaten the internal peace in Germany. He is not afraid of confrontation and is using drastic means to achieve it. As I said: That is the message. Whether it is put into practice is another question.

In a government statement announced at short notice on Thursday morning, Scholz addressed the current security situation. The news situation made this all-round attack necessary. In addition, the EU elections are imminent, in which the Chancellor’s party, the SPD, could once again undercut its historic low of 2019. Scholz, whose own standing has also suffered according to the polls, is unlikely to mind if his appearance could provide some relief.

The fatal knife attack on a young police officer, presumably by an Islamist-motivated perpetrator. The flooding in southern Germany, the fourth flood disaster this year alone. And Russia’s brutal mass bombing of the city of Kharkiv, which requires new ways of fighting back: the intensity of the crisis cannot be ignored, even if the internal connection is not immediately apparent.

Scholz’s explanation: Each of these events fuels insecurity – and where there is a lack of security, fear and anxiety are not far away. The Chancellor sees this as a threat to democracy and the rule of law, which are currently under pressure from all sides: from left-wing and right-wing extremism, but also from Islamism. Against this background, the Chancellor found remarkably clear words for the “knife attack” in Mannheim, which was an expression of a misanthropic ideology and radical Islamism. There is only one term for this, said Scholz: “terror”.

The motive of the 25-year-old Afghan who pulled a knife at an anti-Islam rally on Mannheim’s market square has not yet been fully clarified. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is still investigating and assumes that the crime was for “religious reasons”. But the crime has long since reignited a well-known debate about whether foreigners who commit serious criminal offenses should be deported more consistently – even if they come from unsafe countries of origin.

Scholz has now made a clear statement on this, which could come back to haunt him given the legal hurdles. “Such criminals should be deported, even if they come from Syria and Afghanistan,” said Scholz. Serious criminals and terrorist threats “have no place here.” “Anyone who takes advantage of our protection has forfeited our protection. There is zero tolerance for that.” The Federal Ministry of the Interior is looking for ways to make these deportations possible, said Scholz. The government is already in talks with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.

Olaf Scholz’s demand also raises practical questions

A clear statement, but with a back door: The Chancellor did not say that he was in favour of deportations in these countries. Obviously a deliberately formulated vagueness. Because repatriations to Afghanistan have been suspended since August 2021, at the time in response to the Taliban’s seizure of power. Germany also does not deport people to Syria, where dictator Assad has been waging a brutal war against his citizens since 2011.

Scholz’s demand therefore raises many practical questions, which Britta Haßelmann, co-chair of the Green coalition partner, lists in detail. How do you want to negotiate deportations with a “terrorist regime” in Afghanistan with which you have “no relations whatsoever”? And which third country should be attractive for taking in terrorists and serious criminals? SPD politicians had brought Pakistan, which is Afghanistan’s neighbor, into play. “I’m excited to see what answers we can find to that,” said Haßelmann, without concealing her displeasure. She spoke out in favor of strengthening the security authorities and tightening gun laws – a nod to the liberal coalition partner, who is standing in the way here.

The Chancellor encountered no significant opposition to his comments on the flood disaster in southern Germany, which he saw as yet another harsh warning to combat man-made climate change. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz, who was the first speaker to respond to Scholz’s government statement, did not mention the topic in his speech. Instead, he grilled the Chancellor on his support for Ukraine.

Recently, the Chancellor, in solidarity with his allies, revised another red line. Now, in its defensive struggle, Ukraine is allowed to use Western weapons to fire on Russian military facilities, in close consultation with its suppliers. The move was made in response to the brutal bombing of the border town of Kharkiv and left the peace chancellor in a difficult position to explain himself. “Securing peace,” said Scholz, referring to the SPD’s election campaign slogan, does not mean raising the white flag and capitulating – but supporting Ukraine.

But Union parliamentary group leader Merz does not see prudence in this, but rather hesitation and fear, even a “policy of back and forth”. Scholz has changed course too often and has not explained it sufficiently. He therefore dares to predict that Scholz will also deliver the Taurus cruise missile to Ukraine at some point. And even then it will be too late, Merz criticized. In general, the opposition leader accused the government of only acting timidly. The knife attack in Mannheim had revealed “serious grievances”, said Merz. The time for downplaying and warning is now over. “You must act now, you must get the situation under control,” demanded Merz. “Please do not disappoint us.”

Security is the key, said Scholz at the end of his speech, a pillar of democracy and the rule of law. That is why the federal government is consistently advocating for it. Citizens can rely on that.

This is what Chancellor Scholz will be judged on.

Source: Stern

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