Olaf Scholz seemed cleared to be shot down in Prague. Ahead of the meeting of the 27 heads of state and government, the EU's top officials all but vied to criticize the continent's current bogeyman. However, the federal government had also delivered a through ball.
The 200 billion "double boom" to relieve German energy customers did not seem to have been coordinated with the European partners. According to their own statements, they were completely surprised. If this description were correct, it would be an unfortunate omission on the part of Scholz, Habeck and Lindner: calls to their counterparts and more details about the package would have helped to avoid misunderstandings.
For example, that the 200 billion should be used for a gas price cap. In fact, only a fraction of the money should flow into the planned gas price brake. We are talking about a maximum of 24 billion euros. The German measure is comparable to similar programs in France, the Netherlands or Greece.
Germany is actually acting much later and far less generously than other EU countries, which have been subsidizing their electricity customers for months. Especially since it is not at all clear whether the German package is needed at all.
The 200 billion are a reserve from which measures can be financed until 2024 without Lindner having to incur new debts in the coming year. The huge sum should reassure the population and companies - like the Corona umbrella and the untenable promise of safe bank accounts after the Lehman crash.
In Europe, however, the information vacuum left by Scholz alienated the partners. It's a situation that is being exploited by all those who want to advance their own agendas. For example, to demand an EU-wide gas price cap, or new common EU debts.
Criticism of Scholz largely fell silent in Prague after the doors to the meeting room closed. It is also clear to the heads of government from Belgium, Poland and Hungary that the EU must find a common answer to the problems at hand. Developments over the summer, when EU countries drove up gas prices in a bid for LNG supplies, showed that more coordination is needed at EU level.
Only the next few days will show what the common response to the high gas prices will look like. On Friday the positions were still far apart. But the mood of crisis was palpable in Prague: the energy crisis not only burdens consumers and endangers industries, but is also becoming a test for the EU.