EU cracks show as Scholz rejects Macron’s plan just days after becoming German Chancellor

Olaf Scholz says 'The free movement of labour is part of the EU'

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Olaf Scholz, who took over from German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, has avoided addressing French concerns about the EU’s stance on nuclear energy. Mr Scholz met the French President in Paris on Friday to discuss matters related to the EU’s budget and energy market. Although the meeting was touted as an attempt to reaffirm the Paris-Berlin alliance fostered by previous leaders, questions hung in the air about the role nuclear energy could play in the fight against climate change.

Recent months have seen France break away from Germany on the issue, with Mr Macron branding nuclear an “affordable, stable and independent” source of energy.

However, Mr Scholz told reporters on Friday it was up to individual nations to decide how they will tackle the climate crisis.

He said: “Each country pursues its own strategy to fight man-made climate change.

“What unites us is that we recognise that responsibility and are ambitious.”

Germany has historically had an uneasy relationship with nuclear, which in 2010 accounted for about 22.4 percent of the country’s electricity supply.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Ms Merkel announced the complete withdrawal from nuclear with plans to close all plants by 2022.

The decision was criticised at the time as a move to boost the former chancellor’s ratings.

As of 2017, less than 12 percent of the country’s electricity came from nuclear power.

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And yet, Germany’s closest ally has been mounting efforts to pressure the EU into updating its green taxonomy to include nuclear energy.

The EU’s green taxonomy is a classification system that specifies which activities can be considered environmentally sustainable.

In early October, France led a coalition of 10 nations urging the European Commission to officially recognise nuclear as a sutainable source of power.

Mr Macron said: “We must rebuild a framework to ensure the productive independence of France and Europe.”

He was joined by the leaders of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia

Last year, about 70 percent of France’s total energy production was accounted for by nuclear power, with France ranking among the top 20 countries for nuclear energy.

Friday’s meeting also saw Mr Scholz reaffirm Germany’s commitment to phasing out the use of coal and strengthening the country’s climate protection efforts.

He said: “We are concentrating on realizing that programme and thereby making our contribution.”

The economic bloc has committed to phasing out of fossil fuels in a bid to reach net zero by 2050.

Towards this goal, the EU is investing in renewable energies such as wind and solar.

However, the transition period to net zero is likely going to include expanding the EU’s reliance on foreign gas imports as a backup source of energy.

Many experts fear this will give Russia, the EU’s biggest supplier of natural gas, an opportunity to exert political pressure on Brussels.

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