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taoiseach abroad

'These are difficult hours for Europe': Taoiseach meets German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin

Speaking in a joint press conference in Berlin today with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Scholz said steps were being taken to halt the process.

LAST UPDATE | 22 Feb 2022

GERMAN CHANCELLOR OLAF Scholz says Germany has taken steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

Speaking in a joint press conference in Berlin today with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Scholz told reporters that he is withdrawing a key document needed for the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to Russia’s actions against Ukraine.

Scholz said “the situation today looks fundamentally different” and Berlin had to “reassess the situation with regards to Nord Stream 2″.

The gas pipeline project cannot go ahead now in these crisis circumstances, he added.

“That sounds technical, but it is the necessary administrative step so there can be no certification of the pipeline and without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot begin operating,” Scholz said.

He told the media that these are “difficult hours” for Europe and that new sanctions are needed to avoid a “disaster”.

He warned that a war may break out in Eastern Europe following Putin’s announcement yesterday, stating that the troops are there now, and that no one knows what could happen next.

Scholz said a robust reaction from Europe can be expected, stating that it is important to launch new sanctions.

“This is now about taking concrete steps,” he said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the announcement by Russian President Putin yesterday that Russia was recognising the separatist regions in Ukraine “crosses a line”.

Speaking in a joint press conference with the German Chancellor this morning, Martin said “it is a flagrant violation of international law and a breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty”. 

“It breaches the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, under which all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. 

“As I have said, together with our EU partners, Ireland stands in solidarity with Ukraine. The Chancellor and I discussed the EU’s response –which will be robust. 

“I again, call on Russia to de-escalate, and to withdraw its military forces from the Ukrainian border,” said the Taoiseach.

At the press conference, Chancellor Scholz said Russia’s actions breach international law and breaches all international agreements Russia has signed up to over the past 50 years.

Today, the Taoiseach will attend the Federal Chancellery in the German capital for a working lunch, following military honours on arrival and a private meeting between the two leaders.

Later in the day, the Taoiseach will visit Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe for a wreath-laying ceremony and a tour of the museum.

Speaking at the press conference today, Martin said:

“As we emerge from the pandemic, and as we drive forward with the green and digital transformations, we need to ensure that we take advantage of these new opportunities to deliver high-quality and high‑skilled jobs across the EU

“Our Governments share a high level of ambition on climate action, and we both support the EU’s climate goals for 2030 and beyond.”

He said he looked forward to discussing the EU’s relations with the UK.

“I am glad to have the opportunity to thank the Chancellor in person for Germany’s support and solidarity throughout the Brexit process. 

“Ireland wants to see a strong and durable partnership between the EU and the UK in the future. For this to happen, existing agreements – including the Protocol – need to be implemented in good faith,” he added.

“I hope that the British Government will engage constructively with this work so that we can find pragmatic solutions to some of the issues that have arisen, within the framework of the Protocol. 

“I will also take the opportunity to brief the Chancellor on the difficult political situation in Northern Ireland, and the importance of ensuring a period of calm ahead of the Assembly elections in May,” said the Taoiseach.

“Chancellor Scholz, may I again express my thanks for Germany’s enduring friendship, and for your warm welcome today,” he concluded.

Covid-19 

Due to the Taoiseach being in Germany today, he will be unable to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting in Ireland, where ministers are due to sign off on the proposals to end  mandatory mask-wearing.

The Taoiseach confirmed last Friday that the Government would be accepting the guidance from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that will bring an end to mandatory mask-wearing.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has recommended an end to the mandatory wearing of masks, but they will be advisory in healthcare settings and on public transport.

The changes will come into place on 28 February, the Taoiseach confirmed over the weekend. 

E-scooters

While the Taoiseach is in Berlin, a number of other items are due to be discussed by Cabinet today, such as as the Road Traffic and Roads Bill, which is being brought by
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.

He is proposing a number of amendments to the Bill, which seeks to legislate for electric scooters and electric bikes.

Currently the proposed Bill makes it an offence to supply the scooters to people under the age of 16 – however, this is now set to be scrapped as it is thought such a measure would be unenforceable. 

The minister is also understood to be proposing a number of other amendments to the Bill which deal with cycleways, the power the minister has to set regulations regarding variations in the alcohol breath tests, as well as transparency around NCT data.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is set to bring his consumer protection Bill, which seeks to give more powers to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Commission for Communications Regulation in a bid to challenge anti-competitive practices by business and to protect consumers.

While it had been expected that the Justice Minister Helen McEntee was to bring proposals to Cabinet this week for defamation law reform, it is now expected this won’t not happen until next week.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan will tomorrow brief his ministerial colleagues on a new cross-Government strategy for the protection, conservation, promotion and management of Ireland’s heritage for the next decade and beyond.

Heritage Ireland, which will be launched tomorrow, sets out a roadmap for the future for Irish heritage with a joined up approach at government, stakeholder and community levels. 

Political Correspondent reporting from Berlin

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