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No country in Western Europe has been criticized more than Germany for being too slow to help Ukraine.
Its political class has been accused for decades of siding with the Kremlin to protect its lucrative business ties with Russia.
But things have changed in the last few months. Former Chancellors Gerald Schroeder and Angela Merkel were placed under intense scrutiny, and the current president, former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had to publicly apologize for the failure of his policy towards Russia.
But this week, Steinmeier made a surprise trip to Ukraine after being snubbed in Kyiv six months ago.
In the northern town of Koriukivka, he was forced to take refuge in an air-raid shelter when sirens sounded. More than any other Western leader, he felt what the war in Ukraine was like.
At the same time, as another expression of support, Germany co-hosted with the European Commission an international conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine, which has been claimed as a monumental task by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. was held in Berlin.
“The scale of the destruction is staggering. The World Bank has estimated the cost of the damage at €350 billion, which certainly cannot be provided by several countries or one union alone. We need to rally,” she said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz never chopped up words either.
“So what we’re talking about here is creating a new Marshall Plan for the 21st century,” he said in Berlin on Tuesday.
“It is a generational task that must begin now. The reconstruction, reconstruction and modernization of Ukraine is truly a multi-generational challenge that requires the collective strength of the entire international community.”
Paris and Berlin feel tension
Germany’s role in managing the outcome of the war in Ukraine has led to strained relations with its closest friend and ally, France.
This week, Emmanuel Macron and Scholz had a hasty lunch in Paris after government talks between France and Germany scheduled for the same day were postponed.
The conference is typically held annually, but has not been held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officially, the reason for the postponement of the meeting is that some of the German ministers are unable to attend due to school holidays.
But common ground is hard to find on many topics, such as how best to deal with soaring energy prices and defenses.
But after Wednesday’s meeting, Scholz downplayed rumors that the Franco-German engine was exploding.
The two leaders did not appear in front of the press after the meeting. Berlin had initially said the two leaders would face reporters together after the meeting, only for Paris to refute them later.
Instead, Scholz assured on Twitter that he had “a very good and important conversation today” with his French counterpart on issues such as energy supply and joint weapons projects.
“Germany and France are working closely together to tackle challenges together,” he insisted.
Relations between Paris and Berlin are no stranger to turmoil, according to Ronja Kempin, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International Security Studies.
“[If] Looking back on almost 60 years of French-German relations, there have always been ups and downs. But I think the difference today is that the war changed the couple’s math a little bit,” Kempin told Euronews.
“We made this deal – France was the security and defense powerhouse in Europe, Germany the more economic one. And in the war now, Germany intends to be Europe’s military leader.” Yes, we are challenging France, and this is why it is a bit complicated at the moment.”
Meloni’s premiership confirmed
What could bring German and French leaders closer, at least at the European level, is the final confirmation of Giorgia Meloni as Italy’s new prime minister and head of the Ringwing coalition.
She was inaugurated on Thursday after a ceremony in the courtyard of her official residence, Palazzo Chigi.
The leader of Fratelli d’Italia will become the country’s first female prime minister and will lead Italy alongside anti-immigrant coalition leader Matteo Salvini and conservative former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Meloni has sought to distance herself from allegations that her party is nostalgic for fascism and sympathetic to Russia, saying it “cannot accept” Russia’s “war of aggression” against Ukraine.
She also said her government ‘want to stop illegal activities’ [migrant] We will put an end to human trafficking.”
But given the quarrelsome mood that characterizes the political climate within the Italian government, where life expectancy is less than a year in post-war Italy, she needs luck.
Chinese ‘police station’ in action in the Netherlands
In another news, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said it was investigating reports that China had set up two “illegal police stations” in the Netherlands to monitor dissidents.
According to Dutch media reports, two Chinese “posts” have been operating in Amsterdam and Rotterdam since 2018.
The “Police Department” claims to provide diplomatic assistance to Chinese citizens, but is not registered with the Dutch government.
NGOs claim the facilities are in fact used by Beijing to monitor and silence political opponents and dissidents abroad, using former military and intelligence service personnel as employees. ing.
The Chinese government said the reports were “totally false”.