Thursday, November 30, 2023

Olaf Scholz, conductor of the G7, under observation

Six and a half months after taking office, the German Chancellor is playing big. By hosting the G7 summit in the sumptuous setting of Elmau Castle, he will not be able to spare himself the comparison with Angela Merkel. It was in this same idyllic setting in southern Bavaria that seven years ago, during the previous German presidency of the group of seven major Western powers, the former Chancellor was photographed in full aside with Barack Obama, she standing and he sitting on a bench against a backdrop of snow-capped Alps, a photo that has remained famous.

Elected multiple times the most powerful woman on the planet by Forbes magazine, she then seemed to remake the world with the president of the first world power. The context has changed radically, and such a photo would not lend itself well to the climate, energy and military crisis that Europe is going through. But Olaf Scholz’s procrastination has also cast doubt on his ability to be the political leader of European democracies.

An unpopularity from which he is not the only one to suffer

Even within his country, the chancellor is only the fourth favorite personality of the Germans. Three ecologists distance him: Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and his counterpart in Agriculture, Cem Özdemir. As for the Social Democratic Party of Olaf Scholz, it was relegated to third place under 20%, behind the Union CDU-CSU and the Greens.

“The popularity of Olaf Scholz is not the subject, the other leaders face equivalent problems in their country”, recalls political scientist Ursula Münch. His tripartite coalition is torn by divergent interests but “there is no government crisis to fear”, believes the director of the Tutzing Academy of Political Education. Olaf Scholz ultimately has nothing to envy to Emmanuel Macron, deprived of an absolute majority and forced to deal with his opposition.

The opportunity for Scholz to transform the test

“At this summit, it is above all a question of displaying the determination and mutual trust of the members of the G7 in the face of Vladimir Putin. It is also necessary to prevent the invited countries from being seduced by Russia”, analyzes Ursula Münch. In addition to his long experience of the international summits he accompanied when he was vice-chancellor, Olaf Scholz benefits from another asset: the time of Donald Trump’s outbursts seems distant, rarely have the G7 countries been so aligned .

In this context, the Chancellor said on Wednesday before the Bundestag that he wanted “Germany, as the economically strongest and most populous country in the EU, to assume a special responsibility”. The rapid execution of his promise, made during his visit to kyiv, to obtain for Ukraine the status of candidate for entry into the EU was a first strong signal. This summit is an opportunity to transform the essay once and for all.


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