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German parties reach an agreement to end the Merkel era. They face a large to-do list

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Under the deal announced in Berlin on Wednesday, Scholz, of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), will lead a tripartite coalition with Green partners and pro-business Free Democrats. It follows a close election in September and two months of negotiations to form a new government.

The deal – which sets out the government’s vision for its four-year term – will now go to the party’s wider members for consideration. With the exception of any last-minute concerns, Scholz will be sworn in as chancellor early next month.

The parties of the new government coalition are not traditional companions. Pro-business Free Democrats are usually more affiliated with the center-right, rather than the left-leaning SPD and Greens.

A stumbling block in the coalition squabbles has been the funding of the Greens’ ambitious climate plans, with the Free Democrats opposing tax increases.

But in terms of coalition negotiations in Germany, this has been fairly quick. After the 2017 elections, it took more than four months to form a new government.

Meet Olaf Scholz, the man who could replace Angela Merkel as Germany's next chancellor
It also predicts the end of the Merkel era, and sends into opposition the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) after 16 years in power.

The next Chancellor Scholz will take over the running of Europe’s largest economy at a time of growing diplomatic uncertainty in the European Union – aggression from Russia and Belarus, respectively, and threats to the rule of law from Poland and Hungary.

As Germany emerges from its worst climate disaster in recent years – devastating summer floods that killed 180 people – the Greens will also play an important role in leading the country towards a future without coal.

Pandemic treatment

But the main one in the big list of tasks facing the next government is the acute one The Covid-19 wave has gripped the country. Germany is battling growing cases that have pushed Europe back to the epicenter of the pandemic, causing severe restrictions from neighboring countries and protests from citizens tired of the blockade across the bloc.

Case numbers are particularly appalling in the eastern states of Germany, where health officials have warned that inpatient hospitals could soon be left without beds for intensive care patients.

While Germany has vaccinated about 80% of its adult population, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), it still lags behind Southern European countries like Spain and Portugal.

On Monday, Health Minister Jens Spahn did not obey his words, as he asked more people to take injections. Spahn told a news conference in Berlin that he was confident that by the end of this winter, everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, cured or die” about the Delta variant.

The country now plans to impose targeted restrictions on Covid-19 for the unvaccinated. However, Germany’s state of emergency over the pandemic was set to expire on Wednesday, and coalition partners have agreed on a new act of protection against the infection that already passed in the lower house and upper house of parliament last week.

Diplomatic exchanges

Meanwhile the immigrant crisis in Poland-Belarus border, which Western leaders have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating with the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has intensified tensions with the European Union ‘s volatile neighbor.
Western leaders agree that democracy is under attack.  It is less clear how they can protect it

The crisis has also turned a sharper focus on Russia’s influence in Europe – no less the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bring gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. German authorities last week halted the approval process for the pipeline amid problems with the company’s operating license.

Elsewhere, populist governments in Poland and Hungary continue to push the boundaries of EU membership by stripping core democratic values. Recently, the EU Supreme Court ruled Poland had violated the laws of the bloc regarding the independence of the judiciary.

Scholz’s predecessor, Merkel, made a name for herself as the steadfast hand of EU diplomacy, leading the bloc in various ways through the European debt and immigration crisis. Whether the new chancellor will also advance to the role of EU leader – or leave those shoes to fill another – remains to be seen.

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