Why the Federal Chancellor flies around the world so much

Why the Federal Chancellor flies around the world so much

Am Sunday could Olaf Scholz look at cracks in the Arctic Ocean ice. They were clearly visible from a height of twelve kilometers. The Chancellor was on his way back from Tokyo to Berlin. Since Russian territory is currently not allowed to be flown over because of the war against Ukraine, Scholz had to fly around Russia once, over China, back on the northern route over the Arctic Ocean.

However the cracks seen from the Chancellor’s plane came about, the CO2-Emissions from the government’s one-day trip to the Japanese capital are significant. As is well known, this is not helpful for the ice cream.

But these are not the standards for chancellor trips, even if the opposition sometimes asks about their ecological balance. The time when a German head of government traveled long distances by means of transport other than airplanes, such as Konrad Adenauerwhich took ten days by ship to America in 1953, are long gone.

More than 30 states in their first year in office

Cars and helicopters are used within Germany. The ecologically cheapest means of transport, the train, is generally left out at the highest political travel level. There is also a reference to Adenauer, who traveled all over Germany by train during the election campaign.

A chancellor has to travel a lot, environmental protection or not, that also applies to Olaf Scholz. In his first year in office, he visited more than 30 states with his predecessor Angela Merkel it had been fewer than 30 in the first year. However, the absolute figures are not very meaningful. It is not surprising that they rose from chancellor to chancellor and back to chancellor again. Although the pandemic has shown that video conferencing can also be used as a substitute for a certain time, there is no substitute for face-to-face encounters and they are becoming increasingly important in an increasingly interconnected world.

The Ice Breaks: What About the Chancellor's Alliances?

The Ice Breaks: What About the Chancellor’s Alliances?

Image: Eckart Lohse

The subject of Ukraine dominates

This is not only true because there are always new government officials somewhere in the world to meet, which is hardly possible on the screen. In addition, she also wins EU more and more important. A large number of trips therefore take German heads of government to Brussels for EU meetings or to the important capitals, above all Paris. For the Federal Chancellor, a flight to the Belgian capital is not a classic trip abroad, but regular coordination with partners in the institutions provided for this purpose.

The fact that Olaf Scholz traveled so much in his first year in office has a lot to do with the war against them Ukraine to do. Of course, this did not yet apply to the first trip, the inaugural visit to Paris, to the EU and NATO immediately after his election as Federal Chancellor in December 2021. But the visit to Washington from February 6th to 8th, 2022 was already marked by the approaching war, of the outbreak of which the Americans in particular were convinced.

It was the beginning of a close and apparently personally good relationship between the new German head of government and the American president Joe Biden. Scholz seeks support and political proximity to Biden, which requires occasional face-to-face encounters. An unusual event happened recently. While journalists are usually taken on the Chancellor’s trips to Washington, Scholz flew without the media to talk to Biden. Reason: This is a working visit. This raises the question of what the chancellor’s other trips should be called. Maybe he just wanted to talk to Biden undisturbed and without questioning journalists.

Special Relations with Japan

Since the outbreak of war, especially after the end of Russian energy supplies to Germany, Scholz has been traveling the world particularly intensively. Apart from cultivating close contacts with European partners and the other western democracies, i.e. America and Canada, he strives for closer relations with countries in Asia, Africa and South America, which, although they are not clearly on the side of the West on the Ukraine question, but Scholz hopes to be able to tie more closely to Germany and Europe. India and Brazil are two examples. He is also trying to find new sources of energy and raw materials beyond Russia and China.

In particular, he maintains relations with Japan, where he will fly again in May because of the Japanese G-7 presidency. The close connection to shows how important the Chancellor’s choice of travel destinations is and what signals are sent as a result Tokyo. While his predecessor Merkel clearly focused on China in Asia, where she was almost every year and visited one other city in addition to Beijing, Scholz only traveled to Beijing more than six months after the first visit to Japan, which took place last April .

Even if Federal Chancellors have comfortable airplanes with meeting rooms and beds at their disposal, traveling is exhausting. Three or four days in South America or Canada are part of the long trips. The trips to Japan this year and last year were such that Scholz spent the night on the plane on the outward flight and began his working day immediately after landing in Tokyo. Then he slept a night in the hotel, the next day he took his return flight. Only his stay in Beijing was shorter. Under the strict Chinese corona conditions, it lasted only eleven hours and did not include an overnight stay on the ground.

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