BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Tuesday for the European Union to address the political, economic and strategic challenges it faces by embracing a series of reforms, including pooling its defense procurement efforts, forging new trade deals and setting aside long-running disputes over migration from outside the bloc.
Speaking to lawmakers in the European Parliament, he said strengthening the EU’s military, technological sovereignty and independent sources of crucial commodities would boost the bloc’s ties with its closest partner, the United States.
Scholz said it was important for the EU to keep its promise toward prospective members such as the Western Balkans countries, while ensuring they undertake the necessary reforms to be able to join the bloc.
Efforts to rebuild Ukraine, another aspiring EU member, will need “political and financial capital over the long term,” he said, adding that a prosperous and democratic Ukraine would be the strongest counterpoint to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “imperialist, revisionist and illegal policies on our continent.”
He said rivalry and competition with China has increased lately, but warned against efforts to decouple the bloc from its major trading partner, instead calling for a “wise de-risking” that would minimize the harm to European economies if tensions with Beijing flare.
While Scholz backed calls for “effective protection of external borders,” he urged member states to consider the benefits of migration, too, as many parts of Europe urgently need labor from outside the bloc. A reform of Europe’s asylum system should happen before next year’s European Parliament elections, he said.