German Chancellor Scholz calls for the integration of Ukraine, Georgia into EU

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged emphatic backing for Ukraine and other hopefuls to join the European Union, underlining however that enlarging the bloc to "30 or 36" would require reforms.

Speaking on Monday, Scholz said he was "committed to" having the six nations of the western Balkans, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine accede to the EU.

However, according to Scholz, as the bloc widened, each member's veto right would have to go with a transition to a "majority voting" system so as not to hamper EU decision-making.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already put the system of unanimity to the test, at a time when swift action is all the more necessary.

"Let's seek compromises together. I could imagine for example, starting with majority voting in areas in which it is particularly important that we speak with one voice – in sanctions policy for example, or on issues relating to human rights," he said.

Scholz added that member states are not faced with only two options of voting yes or no, but can also adopt "constructive abstention".

The EU agreed candidacy status for Ukraine and Moldova in June, while Albania and North Macedonia in July joined Balkan neighbours Serbia and Montenegro in formal negotiations for membership with Brussels.

But the road to accession was expected to be long, and in the meantime, Scholz said the European hopefuls should be included in a new political forum, as suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron "to discuss key issues that affect our continent as a whole".

'Coordinated growth'

In the speech on his vision for the bloc at Charles University in Prague, Scholz also underlined that the Ukraine war has laid bare the "uncoordinated shrinkage of European armed forces and defence budgets" which has to be rectified with "coordinated growth".

This means greater cooperation between European businesses on armaments projects, joint manufacturing and procurement.

Germany will be ramping up "very significantly" on its air defence system, and also design it in a way that it could also be a shield for European neighbours from the Baltics to Scandinavia.

While that will be a long-term project, Berlin was already coordinating with the Netherlands on a "division of labour" on arming Ukraine, said Scholz as he urged other allies to join in the initiative.

(with newswires)