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.
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.
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.
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.
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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