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German power grab: Merkel’s successor Scholz proposes major overhaul of EU’s voting rules

3 min read

Olaf Scholz is sworn in as Germany's new chancellor

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the success of the European Union is Germany’s top national priority, warning that no disputes among member states must be allowed to threaten the political and monetary project.

Speaking in his first major address to the Bundestag lower house, he said: “It must become a rule that we at the European Council can decide based on a qualified majority, including in areas where today is not the case.

“This is not losing sovereignty, it is gaining sovereignty.”

The comment is likely to infuriate some in the EU as the proposal would threaten the veto powers of member states when it comes to issues that require unanimity.

The Council has to vote unanimously on a number of matters which the member states consider to be sensitive.

Common foreign and security policies, EU membership, EU finances, are some of the examples in which the principle of unanimity is mandatory for the bloc.

The idea had already been explored in June, earlier this year, by then German foreign minister Heiko Maas, who said the EU should abolish the right of individual member states to veto foreign policy measures as the EU27-nation bloc could not allow itself to be “held hostage”.

Heiko Maas told a conference of Germany’s ambassadors in Berlin: “We can’t let ourselves be held hostage by the people who hobble European foreign policy with their vetoes.

“If you do that then sooner or later you are risking the cohesion of Europe.

“The veto has to go, even if that means we can be outvoted.”

The attack was primarily aimed at Hungary as Viktor Urban had blocked an EU statement in April criticising China’s new security law in Hong Kong, undermining EU efforts to confront Beijing’s restrictions of freedoms in the former British colony.

READ MORE: Angela Merkel’s successor as German Chancellor dubbed ‘Scholzomat’

Mr Orban said that the European left, led by the German left, was attacking Hungary because of “its refusal to sign a politically inconsequential and frivolous joint declaration on Hong Kong”.

These declarations make the EU look like a “pathetic paper tiger,” Mr Orban wrote on his official website.

He said: “There must be an end to the preoccupation in Brussels with concocting and flaunting declarations.

“In recent years this common foreign policy approach, motivated by domestic political considerations, has led to the European Union’s foreign policy stance becoming a laughing stock.”

The German proposal also sparked the fury of Nexit campaigners in the Netherlands who warned the move would allow big powers like Germany and France to decide arbitrarily for smaller countries in the bloc.

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They said: “Something that unfortunately often happens because of the EU and the euro, is the regular multi-billion-dollar aid to Southern Europe.

“If countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain want another hundred billion Dutch taxpayers’ money, and the EU supports this, then we can do nothing at all to prevent this.

“After all, the veto right no longer exists.

“If the EU wants to impose sanctions in the future against a country that is historically or culturally close to us, such as Suriname or Indonesia, there is nothing we can do to prevent this. We are then de facto no longer a self-determining country with our own will and our own personal ties.

“Many small EU member states in particular have an uneasy feeling about abolishing the right of veto.

“They fear that the larger countries, such as Germany and France, will assert their power and impose their will on the smaller countries.”

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