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Olaf Scholz backs proposal for new European gas pipeline

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he supported 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. Europe.

Speaking on Thursday during his first summer press conference, Scholz said he had discussed the idea with the leaders of Spain, Portugal and France and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

“I made the case that we should really tackle such a project,” he said, adding that there would be “other connections between North Africa and Europe that would help us diversify.” [energy] provided”.

He did not specify which project he was referring to but Spain and Portugal have pressed France to revive a planned gas pipeline through the eastern Pyrenees, which was halted in 2019 following protests. from Paris. Madrid wants the European Commission to fund the project.

The lack of alternative pipelines has been identified by the EU as a major obstacle to Russia’s efforts to phase out Russian gas in the continent. Brussels has made weaving together the bloc’s energy infrastructure, removing bottlenecks and ending delays on pipeline projects a priority.

But such a project is not coming to Germany any time soon. Berlin is racing to find alternative gas sources after Russia drastically reduced flows through Nord Stream 1, the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, Russia’s main gas pipeline into Europe. NS1 is currently operating at only 20% capacity.

Gas scarcity has pushed up prices and Germany’s efforts to fill gas storage before winter heating season have become complicated. The industry fears the government could be forced to declare a gas emergency, which means supplies will have to be allocated.

Germans are bracing for soaring heating bills this winter, as a flat economy, soaring inflation and supply chain problems continue to afflict the industrial sector. The latest problem: sinking water levels on the Rhine, which is ravaging vital river trade.

Scholz acknowledged Germany was living through “serious times”, but said the government would “do everything possible to make sure everyone gets through this difficult period”, repeating his mantra : “You will never walk alone”.

He said he was working on a third financial aid package for needy citizens and described a proposal announced this week by Finance Minister Christian Lindner to adjust the tax bracket to account for higher inflation. is “very, very helpful”. Lindner said the idea would help reduce taxes for 48 million people.

Scholz said that even with the new financial support package, Germany will be able to comply with the constitutional “debt brake” from next year, as planned. The federal government has placed a strict limit on new loans.

Asked by reporters if he feared social tensions would increase this winter, as the gas crisis worsens and energy costs continue to rise, he replied: “No , I don’t think there will be unrest in this country. Because Germany is a country of well-being”.

Scholz said he is confident Germany will be able to fill the shortfall in gas supplies from Russia, with new liquefied natural gas import terminals currently being built on the North Sea coast and commencing operations early in the year. next year.

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

Scholz was also repeatedly questioned about the “concurrent” tax fraud scheme, the subject of an extensive investigation by law enforcement agencies in Germany.

In 2016, when he was mayor of Hamburg, the tax authorities there chose not to request a refund of 47 million euros in reverse taxes from a private bank, MM Warburg, which was involved in several transactions. part-time translator. The opposition accuses him of influencing the tax authorities to invalidate the bill – an allegation he denies.

“There is no evidence of political influence,” says Scholz [being exerted] about this decision”.

His alleged role in the former cum story resurfaced in the past few days after it was revealed that authorities had discovered around 200,000 euros in cash in a safe belonging to a former MP Hamburg from Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, Johannes Kahrs.

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

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