Scholz and Habeck on a treasure hunt in Canada

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) and Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Both heads of government emphasize their good relationship with each other.

(Photo: Bloomberg)

Montréal In about two dozen countries on four continents has Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) since he was sworn in in December. For none of them did he put as much effort into his inaugural visits as he does now Canada. Scholz takes three days for the second largest country in the world in terms of area, which has not even half as many inhabitants as Germany. For comparison: In the much more powerful and economically stronger neighboring country USA it was only half as long in February.

But that’s not all: Scholz has brought in reinforcements for this trip. Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) flew with him to Montreal, the first of three stops in Canada.

The two had only been together once before, in May at a North Sea summit in Denmark. In addition, Scholz will be accompanied for the first time by a larger business delegation, led by Industry President Siegfried Rußwurm.

A dozen top managers are there, including the CEOs of Volkswagen, Bayer, SiemensEnergy and Uniper. In total, more than 80 passengers fly in the government aircraft.

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But what is Scholz and Habeck doing all the effort for? There are economic and political reasons:

  • Natural resources: Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is forcing Germany to broaden its economic relations. This applies acutely to the energy sector, where one wants to become independent of Russian gas supplies. Canada does have LPG. However, Germany can only benefit from this in the medium term because there are still no pipelines and terminals for transport across the Atlantic. The focus of the trip is therefore on hydrogen production. In addition, German industry is interested in Canadian minerals and metals, including cobalt, nickel, lithium and graphite, which are important for battery production.
  • Alliance of Democrats: After his arrival, Scholz summed up the attraction that Canada holds for him with one sentence: “The country has similar rich natural resources as Russia – with the difference that it is a reliable democracy.” So actually the perfect partner for a way out of the raw materials dependency on Russia. “We not only share common values, but also a similar view of the world.”

Scholz has made it his mission to strengthen cooperation between democracies in order to be able to compete with autocracies such as China and Russia. That’s why he visited Japan before China, which is economically more important for Germany – unlike his predecessors Gerhard Schröder (SPD) and Angela Merkel (CDU). And he makes his first visit to Canada after a good eight months. Merkel let seven years pass.

Scholz wants to win Canada as a raw material supplier

In any case, Scholz gets on really well with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At the joint press conference on a roof terrace in Montreal’s old port with the skyline as a backdrop, he spoke of a “friendship that connects us both”.

>> Read here: How the gas crisis overshadows Minister of Economics Habeck’s future issues

The 50-year-old Trudeau visited the chancellor in Berlin early in his term of office. The two also met at the G7 summit in Elmau and at the Nato-Summit in Madrid. The chemistry between the two is right.

In Canada, Trudeau is unlikely to leave the Chancellor’s side. In Montreal, where he has his constituency, the two began talking. On Tuesday we continue to the economic metropolis of Toronto and finally to remote Stephenville, a small town in sparsely populated Newfoundland.

From there, Chancellor and Prime Minister want to take something tangible with them: an agreement on cooperation in the production and transport of green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energies and plays a central role in the energy transition. No greenhouse gases are produced when using hydrogen. However, to produce it, water has to be split into hydrogen and oxygen, which requires a great deal of energy. This electrolysis is only climate-friendly if sustainably produced energy is used, for example electricity from the sun or wind.

Green hydrogen in the focus of the Chancellor

Wind is plentiful in Newfoundland and there is ample space to convert it to energy with wind farms. An almost perfect place for the production of green hydrogen, which can then serve as the basis for fuels to replace coal, oil and natural gas in industry and transport, for example.

>> Read here: The fatal ignorance of German politics towards a model partner

“Canada will play a very, very central role in the development of green hydrogen,” said Scholz in Montreal. “We are therefore very happy that we can also use this opportunity to expand our cooperation in this field.”

But there are still no transport options for hydrogen either. Terminals are to be built in Canada by 2025. The visit of the top duo Scholz/Habeck will not help Germany through the energy crisis in the short term. It’s about a long-term commitment. “The focus of the trip is of course on an energy partnership for the future,” said Habeck after arriving in Montreal in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin”.

More: Oh how beautiful is Canada

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