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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

German parties settle for government to end Merkel era

by Geir Moulson and Frank Jordan

BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s ruling parties vowed on Wednesday to modernize Europe’s biggest economy and intensify efforts against climate change, as they announced a deal that would leave centre-left leader Olaf Scholz for weeks. Within prepares to replace longtime chancellor Angela Merkel.

The coalition would shift Germany’s leadership slightly to the left after 16 years under centre-right Merkel, who gained praise for her handling of a series of crises over the years. Scholz indicated that the country’s foreign policy would not change much.

Scholz’s Social Democrats, environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats are set to take the reins just as Germany faces its biggest surge of coronavirus infections in the pandemic so far, a reality that has somewhat launched takes care of. Scholz began the program promising that “the new government will make every effort to bring us this time well.”

The three-party coalition is a first for the German government and forms odd bedfellows with two left-wing parties and one, the Free Democrats, which in recent decades have allied with the centre-right. But Scholz presented it as a huge opportunity.

He promised that the new government would seek “not the lowest common denominator, but the politics of large influences”.

Scholz, 63, said he expects members of all three parties to give their blessings on the deal over the next 10 days. The biggest challenge is the vote of the Greens’ nearly 125,000-strong membership. The other two parties plan to sign it at conventions during the first weekend in December, paving the way for parliament to elect Scholz as chancellor during the week beginning 6 December.

Scholz has been Merkel’s finance minister and chancellor since 2018 in the outgoing “grand coalition” of Germany’s traditional big parties, in which her party was a junior partner. Merkel did not run for a fifth term, and her Christian Democrats would fall into the opposition after a disastrous campaign, which ended with a defeat in Germany’s September 26 election.

Green’s co-leader Robert Hebeck acknowledged “we will take over the government in a time of crisis,” describing the coalition deal as a sign of “courage and confidence” that fits the timing. “The guiding principle of this government is a society that functions, a state that invests and a Germany that simply acts.”

Major pledges by potential partners include an increase in the minimum wage from the current 9.60 euros to 12 euros ($13.50) per hour – a move which Scholz said “means a wage increase for 10 million citizens.” And they also aim to build 400,000 new apartments per year in an effort to curb rising rental prices.

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Habeck also said that the measures planned by the government would put Germany on the path to meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. It also intends to phase out Germany’s coal-fired electricity by 2038, “ideally” completing it in 2030.

Hebek said that rather than formally setting new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it would focus on concrete measures, including ensuring that the price per tonne of carbon dioxide does not fall below 60 euros – A measure that will speed up the coal phase.

At the urging of the Free Democrats, potential partners said they would not raise taxes or curb debt increases.

The leader of the pro-business party, Christian Lindner, said that “together we have a mission to modernize this country.” He announced that “we are going to digitize this state.” This is a challenge in a country with notoriously low internet and cellphone coverage and where government services are often offline.

Linder, who is set to become finance minister, also said the coalition would implement more liberal social policies. These include legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes in licensed stores.

The new government plans to place greater emphasis on the welfare and participation of children and youth. The coalition agreement says it aims to lower the voting age in European elections from 18 to 16 and to change Germany’s constitution so that 16-year-olds can also vote in federal elections.

Looking beyond Germany, Scholz emphasized a strong Europe, friendship with France, and partnership with the United States as key pillars of the new government’s foreign policy – ​​continuing a long post-war tradition.

It is common in Germany for coalitions to draw up detailed agreements for their four-year terms; It runs up to 177 pages.

The Social Democrats will get seven cabinet ministers, including the Chancellor, along with the Defense and Health portfolios. The Greens will get five, including the foreign minister and the “economy and climate protection” minister, a new combination. Neither party has announced who will get these jobs.

The Free Democrats would get four ministries, including the key finance portfolio going to Lindner.

He acknowledged that the unexpectedly leak-free talks were “extraordinarily thoughtful”. But he added: “I can assure you that the conversations were as reasoned as they were prudent – ​​we debated some individual sentences for hours.”

Merkel’s Christian Democrats are currently engaged in a contest over who will become their next leader and revive the party’s fortunes after its worst election result ever.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of Germany’s transition to the new government at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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