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08 December 2021

POLITICO: 7 early signals from Olaf Scholz

New German chancellor prioritizes pandemic and wants a strong hand on economic and EU policy. Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz may not have made his first major speech to parliament, but he is already conveying what to expect from his government.

As a new era dawns in Germany, with Angela Merkel bowing out after 16 years in power, attention has turned to the soft-spoken 63-year-old. The former finance minister will lead a first-of-its-kind coalition government, bringing together the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. The arrangement has left the government a bit shrouded in mystery.

“The start of your government is accompanied with curiosity and hope by many,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Scholz’s new Cabinet in a speech Wednesday.

Only a few hours into Scholz’s tenure, here are seven early signs of what’s to come.

No pandemic honeymoon

Scholz has already set a target for his first few weeks on the job: Administer 30 million more coronavirus vaccine doses by Christmas.

The deadline is one of necessity. As a fourth coronavirus wave rolls over the country, the Omicron variant looms and intensive care units risk running out of beds, Germany’s vaccine rate is still too low to achieve herd immunity. Additionally, those who have been vaccinated are now in need of booster shots.

So there’s not much of an option for the government when it comes to choosing its first project from the coalition’s 177-page agreement: It’s all about the pandemic.

Getting tougher on the unvaccinated

The new government will soon make life harder for the unvaccinated, putting Germany in line with big neighboring countries such as France and Italy.

These restrictions are needed, Scholz told reporters Tuesday, to fight the pandemic. That’s a clear signal Scholz isn’t buying the warnings that more restrictions will simply radicalize vaccine skeptics.

“Society is not divided, but rather predominantly of one opinion,” he said.

Minister by popular demand

“Many wanted him,” Scholz said, referencing the hashtag movement — at times trending on German Twitter — #wirwollenKarl, or “we want Karl,” which has been pushing for Karl Lauterbach to become the new health minister...

more at POLITICO


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