How Eastern Europe is responding to Scholz's speech

In a speech at Charles University in Prague on Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke in detail about his vision for European policy for the first time. Among other things the chancellor advocated eastward expansion of the EU, the extension of majority voting among member states and expansion of the Schengen Area. What does this mean for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe?

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Poland's increasing and self-inflicted isolation

Commenting on the impact of Scholz's proposals on Poland, Rzeczpospolita says:

“In a system of majority voting our country will no longer be able to assert its position in the EU Council so easily, but this is partly self-inflicted. The erosion of the rule of law by the PiS government and its alliance with Orbán have led to a knockout of the Visegrád countries, since the Czech Republic and Slovakia don't want to join the anti-democratic game. The Baltic states and even Romania and Bulgaria are prepared to defend the interests of Eastern and Central Europe together, but not to enter an open confrontation with Brussels. An isolated Poland therefore has few coalition options.”

RFI România (RO) /

Finally on the path to Schengen expansion

The EU is breaking free of its paralysis, journalist Ovidiu Nahoi comments on Radio France International's Romanian service:

“Since the start of the Russian invasion against Ukraine, the Europeans seem to have abandoned an immobility that bordered on sclerosis. They have understood the Russian threat and now know that they can only face it together. They have implemented plans to free themselves from dependence on Russian energy resources. ... They have supported Finland and Sweden's Nato membership applications. And now comes the signal that the French-German duo supports the expansion of the Schengen Area. If all goes well, the news we have waited for so long could arrive in October or December.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

No creative solutions

Scholz has left many questions unanswered, the taz criticises:

“Yes, we need majority decisions in foreign policy. Yes, veto rights are an anachronism that must be done away with. But Scholz has not revealed how he intends to achieve these goals. Brussels has been discussing abolishing the veto right for years, but so far no one has found a solution - because the EU states themselves can veto the abolition. This is Kafkaesque and calls for new, creative ideas. But with Scholz one looks for such ideas in vain. He repeats well-known pleas for EU reform that were already on the table during the German presidency in 2020. But he does not present any solutions.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A test balloon for a new Europe

Olaf Scholz has stirred up a hornets' nest with his speech, Lidové noviny notes:

“Scholz wants more majority decisions instead of the unanimity principle. ... That will certainly trigger massive protest in some countries. But of course, Scholz is not suicidal. His speech was a test balloon to see to what extent the member states really want change. The Russian aggression against Ukraine has shown that the EU must reform if it wants to be able to react quickly and decisively. The rewriting of the EU treaties would be ideal, but that is probably more of a theoretical solution.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Division instead of agreement

The German chancellor's speech does the opposite of what is needed in the current situation, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Scholz wants both enlargement and more power. The key to achieving this is to abolish the principle of unanimity: if individual national governments can no longer block unwelcome decisions at the top level, they give up the guarantees of their national sovereignty. ... The Eastern and Central Europeans in particular, who only regained their national sovereignty after the fall of the Berlin Wall, attach particular importance to not being outvoted and dominated by the large Western European states. And with good reason. ... A speech calling for the unification of Europe has instead highlighted the deep divisions on the central issues of its future.”