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Olaf Scholz at the handing over ceremony of the German Chancellery Olaf Scholz at the handing over ceremony of the German Chancellery  (ANSA)

Olaf Scholz sworn in as Germany's new chancellor

Center-left leader Olaf Scholz has been sworn in as Germany's ninth chancellor since World War Two. But he faces significant challenges.

By Stefan J. Bos  

Europe's largest economy and one of its most populous nations entered a new era Wednesday after Angela Merkel's 16-year power.

Scholz's government takes office with promises to tackle what it views as dangerous climate change and other reforms.

Yet the new chancellor's abilities will be tested as he governs a nation facing its most challenging phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, the United States has reportedly pressured Germany to halt its lucrative Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project with Russia if it invades Ukraine.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

But Scholtz hopes enough lawmakers support him to lead his country of 80 million people through turbulent times.

Lawmakers voted by 395-303 with six abstentions to elect the 63-year-old Scholz.

Merkel looks on

That was a comfortable majority but less than the 416 seats his three-party coalition holds in the 736-seat lower house of parliament.

Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, looked on from the spectators' gallery as parliament voted.

Lawmakers gave her a standing ovation.

Scholz's three-party coalition portrays itself as a progressive combination of former rivals offering new energy to the country after Merkel's near-record time in office.

Besides tacking the coronavirus pandemic, the Social Democrats, Greens, and the Free Democrats have put climate change among their top priorities for the coming years.

They pledged to phase-out coal by 2030.

Traffic light coalition

Their traffic light coalition, named after their parties' colors of red, yellow, and green, also seeks to use a whopping two percent of German territory for wind power. And by 2030, the parties want 80 percent of electricity to be sourced from "renewable energy" and 15 million electric cars on German roads.

But among other more controversial reforms, they seek to make it easier for Germans to buy and use cannabis to combat illegal trade. Germans will soon be able to purchase the drugs in licensed premises, "with controls on the quality and distribution of the drug."

However, they will also be forced to focus on foreign policies with Russia's military build-up along Ukraine's borders and migration, among significant concerns.

Chancellor Scholtz already said Germany must take up the major challenges of this decade and well beyond as a key voice within the European Union. But, he added, if the parties succeed, "that is a mandate to be reelected together at the next election."

For now, Scholtz will have to prove that he has what it takes to rule the leading EU nation.

However, friends and foes view Scholz as a supremely self-confident figure who, in the past, has displayed an ability to put aside setbacks quickly.

08 December 2021, 17:25