Red Yellow Green. The “traffic light” has come on this Wednesday in Germany. Two and a half months after the federal elections that gave a narrow victory to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Bundestag has appointed Olaf Scholz as the new Chancellor and thus ends the era of Angela Merkel, who is dismissed from office after 16 years in power. As soon as the session opened, the President of the Chamber formally greeted Merkel, located in the guest gallery. The entire chamber – except for the extreme right-wing of the AfD – broke out in applause lasting several minutes, which culminated in the majority of the deputies – of all political signs – on their feet. This unanimous tribute testifies to the mark left by the former Chancellor in German history.
The rise in the minimum wage and other key plans of the new German government
This last step experienced today in the Bundestag comes after the formal signing of the coalition agreement with the Greens and the Liberal Party (FDP) on Tuesday, after the approval of the three political formations. The place for the staging? The Futurium Berlin, an exhibition and conference center dedicated to the future. The new government has chosen the motto Daring for more progress as title of the pact that will guide their action, initialed by the leaders of the SPD, the FDP and the Greens together with a bookmark with the traditional colors of the parties that make up the ampel [semáforo].
The chancellor’s election took place this Wednesday among the deputies of the federal Parliament, who voted in secret and without prior debate. After the votes are counted, he is scheduled to be sworn in before the Bundestag around noon.
Scholz needed an absolute majority, at least 369 out of 736 seats. The three coalition partners total 416, so he was assured of a comfortable majority. The composition of the new government was expected to be announced around 1:30 p.m., according to the Bundestag. on their website.
The Social Democrats will head seven ministries, the Greens five and Liberals four. It will be made up of eight women and eight men, although, including the chancellor, men are in the majority. East Germans, analysts say, are underrepresented.
“Green is going to be important, in the broad sense. Green wallets are very cheap,” Guillermo Íñiguez, a European policy analyst, told elDiario.es. “Foreign policy is going to play an important role. There is going to be a clear change of tone regarding Merkel’s foreign policy, towards Russia, China or Hungary. Germany is going to take a fundamental role in the European Union. I don’t think it will be. It is true that it was said that Macron was going to lead Europe and Scholz was going to take a step back. And everything that has to do with digitization and modernization of the country’s infrastructure will also be important. ”
Who are the ministers?
In recent days, the names that will make up the cabinet headed by Scholz, vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s outgoing government, have been revealed. A lawyer by training, he has a long political career in which, among other things, he has been a deputy, Minister of Labor (2007-2009) and Mayor of Hamburg (2011-2018).
The vice chancellery will be occupied by Robert Habeck, co-president of the Greens, who will also be in charge of the super-ministry of Economy and Climate, the most important of those that fall into the party and from which he will have to carry out an ecological transformation of German industry. A writer, he made the leap from literature to politics and was Minister for Energy, Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Areas for several years in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Habeck – and not Annalena Baerbock, his partner at the head of the party and candidate in the September elections – has been commissioned to pose this Tuesday with Scholz and the liberal leader, Christian Lindner, with a copy of the sealed agreement.
Green Co-President Baerbock has been appointed as the new Foreign Minister and will be the first woman to hold this position, from which she has ensured that she will carry out an active foreign policy. She will also be the youngest minister. She studied Political Science and Public Law, has been a deputy in the Bundestag since 2013 and has spent time dedicating herself to foreign and European policy. During the electoral campaign, Baerbock – from the most centrist family of the Greens – broke in with force as the first candidate for chancellor of the party, but her setbacks ended up taking their toll. Even so, the Greens became the third largest political force, with the best result in its history.
Treasury, a key portfolio in the leading European power, will fall as planned on the liberal Christian Lindner, a hard-line politician on fiscal matters who will finally see his ambition to access the position fulfilled, already frustrated in 2017. Lindner studied Political Science, he He joined the FDP at a young age and has been a member of both the North Rhine-Westphalia Regional Parliament and the Bundestag.
The president of the FDP has repeated that, under the coalition pact, there will be no “shift to the left”. The Liberals’ imprint on the agreement, in which they are the smallest partner, is in the renunciation of introducing tax increases and speed limits on the highways. “The future federal government will remain on the (path) of recent years and, therefore, will defend stability,” defended Lindner, who insists that the new Executive is committed to returning to the strict fiscal rules known as the “debt brake” from 2023.
His appointment attracts special attention in the European Union. Lindner has assured that the fears that portray him as a fiscal “hawk” are exaggerated and has indicated that his party has supported the recovery fund. “Lindner will have power but I don’t think he’s trying to impose an agenda that brings us back to 2008 in the EU and with which Germany takes a step back,” says Íñiguez.
In addition to imposing Lindner at the head of a portfolio to which the Greens also aspired, the Liberals have also obtained the Ministry of Transport, which will be for the general secretary of the FDP, Volker Wissing. Justice –Marco Buschmann– and Education –Bettina Stark-Watzinger– are added.
On the side of the SPD, Scholz has not given until this Monday the list of the seven ministers that correspond to the Social Democrats. Several were taken for granted, such as Hubertus Heil, head of Labor in the grand coalition with Merkel, who will remain in office, and Wolfgang Schmidt, a person he trusts, who will be Minister of the Chancellery.
However, in the middle of the wave of record COVID-19 infections, the name of the new Minister of Health was an unknown, who will finally be the epidemiologist and the veteran Social Democratic parliamentarian Karl Lauterbach, who has become a reference figure in the pandemic . He completed his training at Harvard and directed the Cologne Institute for Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology. Lauterbach has advocated for the utmost caution and strict restrictions, which has put him in the crosshairs of deniers and anti-vaccines.
Christine Lambrecht, until now Minister of Justice, will go to Defense. At the head of the new Ministry of Housing will be Klara Geywitz, vice president of the SPD (she presented herself together with Scholz, without success, to the party leadership) and Svenja Schulze, until now in Environment in Merkel’s Government, will go to Cooperation with the Development.
One of the big surprises has been the appointment of Nancy Faeser to the head of the Interior, one of the largest ministries in Germany, which has been in the hands of the CDU since 2005 and has been dominated by men and conservatives, according to the ARD network. A lawyer and regional deputy in Hesse, she does not belong to the left wing of the SPD and is an experienced politician in the fight against right-wing extremism, which she has described as the “greatest threat in the country” and has promised to fight with determination.
On the green side, in addition to the portfolios for Habeck and Baerbock, the Ministry of Family, Women and Youth has been assigned to Anne Spiegel and that of the Environment to Steffi Lemke. Agriculture will go to Cem Özdemir, a Greens veteran who belongs to the centrist wing of the party, which he led for years. The son of Turkish immigrants, he has been a deputy in the Bundestag and in the European Parliament.
Balance between parties
“Each party has achieved symbolic victories and important portfolios,” says Íñiguez. “What is striking about the Government is that a balance has been reached between parties. Each party has taken over the ministries that interested them in their field. In the case of the liberals, perhaps it is the most obvious thing, but the Greens have done it. with the vice-chancellor and a ministry with many economic and climatic competences, so a rivalry between parties and ministers, a ‘war of competences’ of investments, can be expected. And the SPD has acquired portfolios that attract a lot of its voters “.
“Each party had to make many balances between its different branches and sensitivities. In the case of the Greens there was a public discussion to see who would get three ministries out of five, if the realize or the left wing, and in the end the center of the party prevailed, “says the analyst.” This has also had an influence. ”
In the 177-page coalition pact document, some star measurements are collected, such as the increase in the minimum wage to 12 euros an hour and the promise of an energy transition that helps to curb climate change, as well as the construction of 400,000 new homes per year or investments for digitization.
The talks began shortly after the elections and 22 working groups, with about 300 people, including Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals, participated in the negotiations. “It was very fast and the three of them took it very seriously. From the beginning they made it clear that they were going to negotiate a ‘stoplight’, that they were going to conduct the negotiations in silence and it has not been leaked. It is a sign that they knew what they wanted and wanted to form a government, “says Íñiguez.
However, looking ahead, in his view, Scholz “is going to waste a lot of time and energy to make the coalition work.” “There are three parties with very different internal wings. Each law and each measure will have to be negotiated, it will not be easy.”