The new German government is here. What to expect
On Wednesday, September 24th, the negotiations on the future of the German government have finally ended, and a deal has been reached: Olaf Scholz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, will be named Chancellor of Germany at the beginning of December, and a coalition government will be formed.
The SDP, who has stood by Angela Merkel’s CDU party as coalition partners for 12 out of her 16 years in power as Chancellor of Germany, will become the main party in the next government, which is expected to be named in early December.
The SDP, along with the Green Party and the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) will be the three coalition parties who will form the incoming government. Green Party co-leader, Robert Habeck, will be in charge of spearheading Germany’s economy towards climate neutrality without impending on economic growth – he is expected to lead a new government ministry in charge with economy and new climate.
Habeck’s colleague and other co-leader of the Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, will take over the foreign ministry, the first time a woman will be heading this crucial government position in Germany’s history. “After 151 years – it is high time” said the outgoing foreign minister, Heiko Maas, as he congratulated Baerbock on her new position on Twitter.
The third coalition partner, FDP leader Christian Lindner, will head the finance ministry, while party whip Marco Buschmann is to become justice minister. FDP General-Secretary Volker Wissing takes the transport ministry, while the education ministry goes to Bettina Stark-Watzinger, according to Politico.
After more than two months of negotiations since the federal elections on September 26, great things are expected from this upcoming government.
The next government, which is made up of the SDP, Merkel’s junior coalition partner of 12 years and two other newly established parties, who have gained a lot of political momentum at this year’s elections, and have the energy to bring about change and do things differently – is coming into power on a wave of electoral trust from the German public.
The Green Party will not only have the newly established new climate and economy ministry, but also agriculture and environment. This will help Germany to build its environmental agenda in a new, more unified way, as well as address and uphold some of the country’s pressing matters and political promises.
Germany will shut down its last coal-fired power plant by 2030, eight years earlier than envisioned by the outgoing government. By the same year the country is aiming to draw 80% of its energy from renewables.
Power generation from gas will be ended by 2040, and gas boilers will be banned in new buildings and existing ones replaced by 2030. In a surprise move, the next transport minister will hail from the liberal FDP, which should “squash the last hopes of those who want Germany to at last impose a maximum speed limit on the autobahn. The business-friendly FDP styles itself as the last remaining champion of the combustion engine”, reports The Guardian.
On the economic front, the government will have to keep good on Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s promise of raising the minimum wage to €12 – a decision that will affect more than 10 million people, especially in areas that are SDP strongholds.
However, when it comes to economic decisions, the upcoming government will have a series of obstacles to overcome. The two liber left parties – SDP and the Greens – will have a hard time negotiating economic terms with the business-friendly FDP. During the negotiation talks, the proposition of a wealth tax did not make it through, as debt-averse finance minister and FDP leader, Christian Lindner, might present a considerable obstacle to the more progressive and socially centred economic agenda of the two coalition partners.
As the economic prospects are so powerfully intertwined to Germany’s position on the continent, it is a natural continuation that we address Europe. For Europe’s most powerful economy, Germany was also the de facto leader, as well as an anchor of stability for the region.
With Lindner at the helm of the finance ministry, countries with less powerful economies, like those in Southern Europe, are fearful that Germany will return to its pre-pandemic attitudes of fiscal responsibility and conservatism.
Naturally, the most pressing issue of all incumbent governments, and especially incoming ones, is the continuing challenge of the COVID19 pandemic. With cases rising in Germany, and a new virus strain stemming from South Africa – Omicron – now having been identified in Western Europe, a stagnant vaccination rate and a state of epidemic emergency, the health ministry seems to be least desired position in politics nowadays.
As we’ve seen in Austria, where protests have been mounting after the country became the first state to issue a vaccine mandate and quarantine for unvaccinated citizens, then followed by a national lockdown until December 12th, politicians, especially those who have just entered government, are sceptical to make such polarising decisions, that will break a society in half. With expectations from the public to reign in the fallout of the pandemic nearly impossible, the incoming government will face its toughest challenge yet.
Lastly, there is also the issue of Russia and China. With Annalena Baerbock as incoming foreign minister, she has vowed to strengthen the foreign policy agenda of Germany, in relation to the world’s two great threat actors. Baerbock is said to give more impetus to human rights and democratic values, rather than the more conservative outlook of democratisation through economic engagement.
While Angela Merkel used to effectively run foreign policy from its office as well, rendering the ministry redundant, it is unclear whether the incoming Chancellor will do the same. Olaf Scholz is not known to have a strong foreign policy record.
Perhaps the most contentious plan remains the Nord Stream II pipeline, the gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany. While the SDP approves of the plan, the Greens oppose it.
This subject has not been mentioned in the coalition treaty, and, given the recent migrant tensions at the Poland-Belarus border, Eastern states are calling for the German government to make sure that, if this project is approved, it will not be used by Russia as a weapon against its neighbours, as Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawieck, said on Sunday.
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