Olaf Scholz is due to be elected chancellor by the Bundestag on Wednesday, opening a new chapter in German and European politics as the Merkel era draws to a close.
Scholz, outgoing vice-chancellor and finance minister, will lead a government made up of his Social Democrats, the business-friendly Liberal Democrats and Greens, a party coalition never attempted before at the federal level in Germany.
The alliance ends 16 years of reign of Angela Merkel, who has chosen not to run again. During his hectic tenure, spanning eurozone crises, over a million refugee arrivals and Brexit, there have been four French presidents, five British prime ministers and eight Italian prime ministers.
The 177-page coalition agreement, titled Dare More Progress, was signed by party leaders on Tuesday in a ceremony at the Futurium Museum in Berlin. It was “the moment when the post-Merkel era begins in earnest,” tweeted Deutsche Welle’s international broadcaster political editor Michaela Kuefner.
The deal had already received strong support from all three parties, paving the way for Scholz’s vote by Germany’s lower house on Wednesday.
The new government has a full plateau, from the growing number of coronavirus cases in Germany to Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border, on top of its priorities to reform the German economy by modernizing creaky infrastructure and sharply cutting back on fossil fuels .
Scholz said any attempt by Russia to cross the Ukrainian border would be unacceptable. “It is very, very important that no one goes through the history books to draw new frontiers,” Scholz told reporters after the signing of the coalition agreement.
He was less firm when asked about China, avoiding questioning whether Germany would join a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The new chancellor, architect of the EU’s coronavirus stimulus fund, has said his first trip outside Germany will be to Paris and Brussels, as he seeks to ensure that “Europe is safe and sovereign “.
Scholz’s approach to EU talks will be different from that of Merkel, who grew up in East Germany. The outgoing chancellor has been credited with a special understanding of the EU members of the former communist bloc, but also criticized for failing to address the threat to democratic values in Hungary and Poland.
Autocratic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who left Merkel’s center-right European People’s Party group, said that when Merkel leaves office “a piece of central European life will go with her”. In an article to mark his departure, he criticized Merkel’s decision to open Germany to Syrian refugees in 2015, while revealing his distrust of what he called “pro-immigration Europe.” , pro-gender, federalist, pro-German of the new left-wing German government. agenda”.
“One thing is certain: the era of ambiguity, stealth politics and drift is over with Merkel. We are now preparing for battle with our eyes wide open.
Germany’s new government has agreed that EU authorities should act more urgently to uphold the rule of law, including withholding EU funds if necessary.
The unity of the coalition could be tested by the Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which is to transport gas from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine. New Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, co-leader of the Greens, who campaigned for the abolition of the project, said the pipeline had not been approved and political talks would continue.
Habeck, a former translator for British poet Ted Hughes, also said it would take two to three years to see the results of investments in renewable energy.
By 2030, the new government wants to phase out coal and have 15 million electric cars on the roads.
Christian Lindner, the leader of the Free Democrats and the next finance minister, said: “We are not kidding ourselves, we are facing great challenges.