Olaf Scholz am Golf: More than a shopping spree

Dhe day comes, Olaf Scholz flies away – at 6 a.m. the Federal Chancellor is drawn to the Middle East. Three countries, two days, one goal: strengthening the resistance forces after Moscow’s attack on Ukraine. Of course, this is about replacing the missing supplies from Russia, but also about understanding the position of the West in an important region of the world. The German’s first stop is Saudi Arabia, or more precisely Jeddah, the “Pearl of the Red Sea”. First appointment: the conversation with the Saudi heir to the throne Muhammad bin Salman, who has achieved dubious global fame after the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He is considered the mastermind behind the crime in which the body was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The meeting with the prince took place behind closed doors. There was no joint appearance afterwards either. Scholz later asked critical questions about this.

Already the first day of the journey is hard realpolitik. It is doubtful that Scholz would have sought contact with the heir to the throne if Russia had not violated international law so massively and the problems were so great. It is all the more important for the Federal Chancellor to set different, if not to say softer, signs. This includes a conversation with young women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar is particularly courted

A few days before the Chancellor’s departure, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) had raised expectations. There was speculation about the conclusion of contracts in the field of hydrogen and liquid gas (LNG) at the weekend after the Green politician whispered with a view to the United Arab Emirates, the second stop on the Scholz trip: “The ongoing effort leads to success.” That was it Hardly disguised self-praise, after all, Habeck was already in the Gulf in March to prepare the ground for deliveries that could take the pressure off the gas markets.

Above all, Qatar, the third stop on the Chancellor’s grueling weekend trip, is currently being particularly sought after, as the country is the second-biggest exporter of liquid gas. After the inflow from Russia has dried up, the other options for getting gas through pipelines are limited. For this reason, terminals are currently being built in Germany at a speed rarely seen before, where tankers can feed the coveted freight into the network. However, the Emirate of Qatar will also not be able to step in as a large replacement supplier for a long time, since the capacities are largely tied up. It will not be able to ship significantly more gas until 2026 or 2027. But Qatar’s potential remains limited.

The Energy Economics Institute at the University of Cologne came to a similar conclusion in a study for the industry association Zukunft Gas. Other potential suppliers such as Australia or Canada, where Habeck and Scholz were recently hoping for new contracts, could not increase their exports “significantly”. Like Qatar, they would have tied themselves strongly to Asia. The scientists expect that the United States in particular will fill in the gaps left by Russia’s failure over the course of the decade.

key role for hydrogen

That is why there was an early attempt to dampen expectations in Scholz’s environment: it was said that the chancellor was not on a shopping spree. In addition, it was pointed out that the federal government itself would not conclude any supply contracts; in a market economy, that was still the task of the companies. At the weekend, Scholz will be accompanied by a business delegation. Among others, Christian Bruch (CEO of Siemens Energy AG), Guillaume Faury (Chief Executive Officer of Airbus SE), Christian Klein (CEO of SAP SE) and Stefan Wintels (Head of the state development bank KfW) are present. They can discreetly initiate or expand business in the Chancellor’s entourage.

Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was only in Berlin with Scholz in May. An energy partnership was signed with the promise of wanting to work more closely together in this field in the future. Scholz described natural gas as a bridging technology on the way to climate neutrality. Hydrogen will play a key role in the decarbonization of the economy for the German economy.

Here, not only Qatar has an enviable potential for renewable energies and for the production of hydrogen. The conditions in the Gulf are so favorable that you can produce electricity with sun and wind for 1 cent per kilowatt hour, it was registered in Berlin – these are the best location conditions for the production of “green” hydrogen at a competitive price. In the Chancellery, for example, they are hoping for long-term contracts with the substance that is supposed to keep German industry running when the age of gas, oil and coal finally ends in order to protect the climate. And many a supplier from Germany is speculating on good business when setting up new production in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

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