Germany's Scholz to head East, to China, next month
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz is swimming against the EU current, heading East in a rare visit to China.
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Friday that he will lead a government delegation to China next month, the first EU leader to make the trip since November 2019.
Speaking after an EU summit in Brussels that had seen leaders debate the need to assert greater economic independence from China, Scholz said the visit would inaugurate a round of intergovernmental talks.
This comes after French President Emmanuel Macron, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, and Spainish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Thursday that they had scrapped a pipeline project that was fervently supported by Germany.
They agreed instead on building a natural gas pipeline connecting the Iberian peninsula to the rest of Europe, an initiative that left many questioning.
Ahead of a meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, all three leaders issued a joint statement saying "they decided to abandon the MidCat project and instead create, as a matter of priority, a Green Energy Corridor connecting Portugal, Spain, and France with the EU's energy network."
The MIDCAT project emerged a decade ago and called for the creation of an overland gas pipeline that would connect Spain to France and then Germany. But it was abandoned in 2019 over several regulatory and funding issues and the fact that it was contested in France for a very long time.
It is worth noting that many hospitals in Germany are up against the ropes, with closures looming on the horizon as rising energy costs and soaring inflation stifle the health sector, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on October 16.
"The hospitals are in a very special situation. If we do not react quickly and really drastically, there will be closures," Lauterbach told ARD broadcaster.
Lauterbach said he would discuss how many forms of assistance should be provided to the country's hospitals with German Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Tuesday. In the meantime, however, Berlin has no plans to set up private funds for hospitals, similar to the one in place for the Bundeswehr, the country's armed forces.
"We cannot create separate special funds for each sphere," Lauterbach stressed.
However, despite the drastic repercussions of the sanctions imposed on Russia, which are deeply battering Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers in Berlin that Germany plans to train a brigade of up to 5,000 Ukrainian troops.
The program was approved as part of a wider EU mission which was approved earlier in the week and will be running for two years initially.
The aim of the mission is to train 15,000 troops in both Poland and Germany, and one of the headquarters will be located in Germany, according to the Chancellor.