On Wednesday, Germany met the coalition of three parties that should govern the country for the next four years. The Social Democratic (SPD), Green and Liberal Democratic (FDP) parties have presented their agreement to form the government that marks the end of the Angela Merkel era.
Olaf Scholz, current finance minister and leader of the SPD, is expected to replace Merkel as chancellor. Annalena Baerbock, of the Greens, will be foreign minister, and Robert Habeck, also leader of the Green Party, will be the head of a new “super ministry” that brings together the portfolios of economy and environment. The leader of the liberals, Christian Lindner, will be the new finance minister.
The so-called “traffic light coalition”, due to the colors of the parties that comprise it, will be the first three-party alliance in the federal government of Germany. The new government’s priority is to combat climate change, in addition to the more immediate task of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has recently reached record numbers in the country.
“We want to be bold about the climate and the industry,” Scholz said at a news conference on Wednesday, alongside the other leaders.
Among the new coalition’s proposals for Germany are plans to legalize marijuana and abandon coal as energy by 2030 — eight years earlier than the previous target.
Raising the minimum wage – from the current 9.5 euros an hour to 12 euros – and the creation of a Ministry of Housing are two essential points of the Social Democrats, while ecologists will lead the transition to a green economy and liberals will give the tone in finance.
Combating Covid-19, however, is a priority issue “at a time when every day we see a new peak of incidence”, said Scholz, through a preamble to the presentation of the pact for the 2021-2025 legislature, to detail various points for immediate action.
Parallel to the creation of a team or crisis office, which will analyze, together with experts, the daily evolution of infections, Scholz referred to the bill to implement compulsory vaccination in essential professional sectors – such as health professionals and care for vulnerable people .
“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. In institutions that care for the most vulnerable groups, we must make vaccination compulsory,” Scholz said.
Merkel, who met with new coalition leaders on Tuesday to debate the pandemic, called for a two-week lockdown, but the idea was rejected by the new government, reported the newspaper Bild.
“Europe’s main industrial power is going to receive a new government, an unprecedented alliance, whose aim is to modernize this country, which requires a great effort,” said Robert Habeck, the leader of the Greens.
“We are facing the great challenge of a health crisis. But we are also facing other persistent challenges that we have to face, such as the digitization and modernization of the country”, stressed liberal leader Christian Lindner.
The script calls for Scholz to be introduced to take office in Parliament the week of December 6th. Before that, the coalition agreement needs to be approved by conferences of the SPD and FDP parties, while the Greens will put the agreement to the vote of the members. The process is expected to start on Thursday and take around ten days.
Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), the most voted party in the general election with 25.7% of the vote, will have seven ministries, including Health, Housing, Defense, Interior, Labor and Social Affairs.
The Greens, with 14.8% of the votes, will have five ministries, including that of Foreign Affairs, headed by Annalena Baerbock. The FDP, with 11.5%, will have Justice, Transport and Education, in addition to Finance.
The negotiations involved 22 working groups and 300 negotiators. The three parties have opposing views on key issues, which has sparked speculation about how the new government will work. Liberals are usually more aligned to the centre-right, while SPD and Greens tend to be center-left.
The Greens advocate a major investment program to fight climate change, and during the campaign pledged to raise taxes to cover the increased spending. For their part, the liberals, who guaranteed the Ministry of Finance, are opposed to raising taxes and raising the debt ceiling.
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