Diplomacy: Scholz urges Milei to ensure social compatibility of reforms

The Argentine president’s first visit to Scholz lasted just 60 minutes. They agreed on the issues of trade and Ukraine. But the chancellor also made their differences clear.

A self-proclaimed “anarcho-capitalist” in the Chancellery: During a one-hour conversation with Argentine President Javier Milei, Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed words of warning to the eccentric radical reformer, who even appeared with a blaring chainsaw during the election campaign.

According to government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit, Scholz emphasized that social compatibility and the protection of social cohesion should be an important benchmark in the president’s tough austerity measures.

However, the ultra-liberal Milei does not believe in social security systems and redistribution. In his eyes, taxes are robbery and efforts to achieve social justice always lead to more injustice, he is convinced. “The state is not the solution, but the problem,” is one of his mantras.

The conversation lasted only 60 minutes as planned. A joint press conference initially announced by Scholz and Milei was cancelled at short notice, as was the reception with military honours – at the request of the Argentine president, according to the German side. The only joint public appearance was a short photo opportunity during the handshake greeting in front of the Chancellery.

“Get rid of Milei”: Protests in front of the Chancellery

In front of the government headquarters, several dozen demonstrators protested against the visit with signs such as “Out with Milei” and “Argentina is not for sale.” They chanted “Milei, scum – you are the dictatorship.”

Argentina is in recession and suffers from a bloated state apparatus, low industrial productivity and a large shadow economy that deprives the state of a lot of tax revenue. The ultra-liberal president wants to get the once rich country back on track with a radical austerity program.

However, this comes at a price: the tough measures are choking off economic output. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expecting a decline of 2.8 percent this year. According to the Catholic University of Argentina, almost 56 percent of people in Argentina live below the poverty line and around 18 percent live in extreme poverty.

Conclusion of the EU-Mercosur agreement called for

Scholz and Milei also spoke about the economic relations between the two countries. According to Hebestreit, both advocated the speedy conclusion of the 25-year-old talks on a free trade zone between the European Union and the South American Mercosur association of states, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. The agreement would create one of the world’s largest free trade zones with more than 700 million inhabitants. However, a basic agreement from 2019 will not be implemented due to ongoing concerns – for example about rainforest protection.

Scholz and Milei were also on the same page with regard to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Both agreed “that Russia has it in its power to end the war of aggression against Ukraine,” explained Hebestreit.

Eccentric pretends to be tame

The head of state of South America’s second-largest economy, which is part of the G20 group of the most important industrial and emerging countries, is considered an eccentric and is often compared to former US President Donald Trump. He likes to refer to parliamentarians as “rats” and the state is the root of all evil for him. During his two-day visit to Germany, however, he was rather tame.

He had already arrived in Germany on Saturday and received the medal of the liberal Friedrich August von Hayek Society in Hamburg for his radical market reforms – in the presence of AfD politician Beatrix von Storch and the chairman of the right-wing conservative Values ​​Union, Hans-Georg Maaßen. “You are bringing capitalism out of the defensive,” said the chairman of the economists’ association, Stefan Kooths, in his laudation.

Milei defended his reforms with the following words: “It was always clear that this would not be without hardships, but we always communicated that clearly to people,” said Milei in his rather lengthy lecture to the Hayek Society. “We said that there would be no money, that it would be hard, that it would be difficult to start with, but that we would eventually achieve good results.”

“Long live freedom, damn it”

However, anyone who had hoped for a fiery speech from the enfant terrible of Argentine politics in Hamburg was likely to be disappointed. Milei spoke for around an hour about his enthusiasm for the economic thinking of the Austrian School, his rise from TV expert to backbencher in parliament to head of state, and his vision for the future of Argentina.

The 53-year-old always oscillates between extremes in his public appearances. Sometimes he plays the eccentric showman, running around the stage, shouting and gesticulating. Then again he gives bone-dry economic lectures. At least at the end of his discourse in Hamburg he reconciled the 200 or so invited guests with his typical farewell formula: “Long live freedom, damn it.”

Milei visits memorial to murdered Jews of Europe

In Berlin, he also visited the Holocaust Memorial. A photo published by the Presidential Office showed him gazing reverently at the grey steles next to the Brandenburg Gate. The Argentinean president grew up Catholic, but has been very interested in Judaism for years. During a visit to Israel, he prayed at the Wailing Wall, he made a pilgrimage to the grave of the famous Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in New York, and relies on the advice of an Orthodox Jewish cleric in spiritual matters. Milei is considered a determined ally of Israel and unreservedly supports the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the Gaza war.

Before Scholz, only four heads of state and government have received Milei since he took office six months ago: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and Pope Francis as head of state of the Vatican. Milei skipped the usual trips for Argentine presidents to important neighboring countries such as Brazil and Chile due to ideological differences. He has already been to the USA several times – but without an appointment at the White House. Instead, he met with Tesla boss Elon Musk and former President Trump.