Olaf Scholz supports the proposal for a new European gas pipeline

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he backs the idea of ​​a new gas pipeline linking Portugal and Spain to central Europe via France, saying it would significantly improve Europe’s energy security.

Speaking at his first summer press conference on Thursday, Scholz said he had discussed the idea with the Spanish, Portuguese and French leaders and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“I argued that we should really tackle such a project,” he said, adding that there would also be “other connections between North Africa and Europe that will help us to diversify our activities. [energy] supply”.

He did not specify which project he was referring to, but Spain and Portugal have pressed France to relaunch a gas pipeline project through the eastern Pyrenees, which was scrapped in 2019 after resistance from Paris. Madrid wants the European Commission to fund the project.

The lack of alternative gas pipelines has been identified by the EU as a major obstacle in its efforts to wean the continent off Russian gas. Brussels has made consolidating the bloc’s energy infrastructure, removing bottlenecks and ending pipeline project delays a priority.

But such a project will not come soon enough for Germany. Berlin is racing to find other sources of gas after Russia drastically reduced flows through Nord Stream 1, the pipeline under the Baltic Sea that is the main conduit for Russian gas to Europe. NS1 is currently operating at only 20% capacity.

The gas shortage has pushed up prices and complicated Germany’s efforts to fill its gas storage ahead of the winter heating season. Industry fears the government could be forced to declare a gas emergency, which would mean supplies would have to be rationed.

Germans are bracing for skyrocketing heating bills this winter, amid a sluggish economy, runaway inflation and supply chain issues that continue to plague the industrial sector. Latest problem to date: the drop in water levels of the Rhine, which upsets a critical river trade.

Scholz acknowledged that Germany was going through “difficult times”, but said the government would “do everything it can to get people through this difficult time”, repeating his mantra: “You will never walk alone”.

He said he was working on a third package of financial aid for struggling citizens and described a proposal unveiled this week by Finance Minister Christian Lindner to change tax brackets to take account of rising l inflation as “very, very useful”. Lindner said the idea would result in tax relief for 48 million people.

Scholz said that even with the new financial aid package, Germany would be able to join its constitutional “debt brake” from next year as planned. The brake imposes a strict limit on new borrowing by the federal government.

Asked by reporters if he feared a rise in social tensions this winter, as the gas crisis worsens and energy costs continue to rise, he replied: “No, I don’t think that there will be trouble in this country. Because Germany is a welfare state.

Scholz said he was confident that Germany would be able to fill Russia’s gas supply gap, with new liquefied natural gas import terminals currently under construction on the North Sea coast expected to begin operations early next year.

“We will be in a situation. . . where it can be expensive to get gas, due to the state of the global market, but we will always have enough,” he added.

Scholz has also been repeatedly questioned about the “cum-ex” tax evasion scheme, which is the subject of a sprawling investigation by law enforcement authorities in Germany.

In 2016, when he was mayor of Hamburg, the tax authorities chose not to demand the reimbursement of 47 million euros in back taxes from a private bank, MM Warburg, which had been implicated in some of the cum-ex deals. The opposition accuses him of influencing the tax authority to drop the bill – a charge he denies.

Scholz said there was “no evidence of political influence [being exerted] on this decision.

His alleged role in the cum-ex saga resurfaced in recent days after it was revealed that authorities had discovered around €200,000 in cash in a safe belonging to a former Hamburg MP from the Scholz Social Democrats, Johannes Kahrs.

Asked by reporters what he knew about the money, Scholz replied “nothing”. “I’m just as curious as you are and would love to know where this came from,” he said. “But he [Kahrs] won’t tell you or me.

Comments are closed.