With the German parliament announcing that Chancellor Angela Merkel will not seek re-election, Germany has a new leader. The head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and former Minister of Finance Wolfgang Scholz was elected by MPs on March 14th to lead Germany into her fourth term as Chancellor.
The “olaf scholz” is the new German Chancellor. Scholz was chosen to replace Angela Merkel, who resigned after 16 years in office.
BERLIN— On Wednesday, Germany’s parliament chose Olaf Scholz, 63, as chancellor, ending Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign. The country’s new center-left leader inherits long-standing issues from his predecessor, as well as a slew of short-term crises that threaten to derail his efforts to modernize the German state and economy.
In a high-stakes video conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, President Biden warned that the US and its allies would respond to an invasion of Ukraine with harsh economic sanctions. A bipartisan group of US politicians is seeking for penalties on the Nord Stream 2 project in a similar development.
A crisis in Ukraine would throw Mr. Scholz’s chancellorship into disarray only days after he took office, putting pressure on Berlin to halt or at the very least halt the pipeline project, which it regards as a vital asset for securing energy supplies. The pipeline, which doubles the capacity of an existing connection, is finished but has to be certified in Germany before it can be put into service.
It’s also a key component of Mr. Scholz’s most ambitious project: decarbonizing the economy while maintaining stable energy costs. Following Ms. Merkel’s decision in 2011 to accelerate the phase-out of nuclear energy, Germany’s last nuclear reactors will be shut down next year, and coal plants will be shut down by 2030, leaving Europe’s largest economy reliant primarily on renewables and imported gas, including from Russia, which is a less CO2-intensive energy source than coal.
“Today, Germany has the highest power costs in the West, but its CO2 generation remains the highest in Europe,” Josef Joffe, an international affairs professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., said.
Mr. Scholz’s coalition intends to rely on gas until renewable energy sources are developed to the point where they can power the country’s economy. However, there is already a schism in the government over how to deal with Germany’s reliance on Russia: Mr. Scholz’s SPD has a long history of being pro-Russia, while the Greens have pushed to scrap the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to the Kremlin’s increasingly hostile attitude toward the West. According to Prof. Joffe, Mr. Scholz, who is new to foreign affairs, may confront a difficult balancing act.
On Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Mr. Biden’s administration had addressed the fate of Nord Stream 2 with Mr. Scholz’s aides in the case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. He refused to provide any information.
Mr. Scholz said on Tuesday that one of his government’s top goals will be to enhance relations with the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Following his first international trip to Paris and Brussels, the European Union’s capital, he will attend a videoconference with President Biden.
Mr. Scholz said, “Germany’s foreign policy is consistent.”
While he said that democratic ideals unite Germany and the United States, he did not respond to queries about whether he would dismantle Nord Stream 2 or join the boycott of the 2023 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, told reporters on Wednesday that Moscow wishes to see Mr. Scholz’s policies toward Russia, particularly the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, remain consistent. He said that Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden had not addressed the pipeline during their phone chat.
The region’s benchmark gas prices surged more than 5% on Wednesday to 101 euros, or $113.80, a megawatt-hour, underscoring the vulnerable status of European energy markets at the start of winter. They’ve risen by more than seven times since a year ago.
The rise came amid fresh uncertainty over the start date for Nord Stream 2, which traders had anticipated would alleviate Europe’s gas deficit by 2023. In January, German baseload electricity costs increased by more than 7%.
Mr. Scholz and his coalition colleagues from the Greens and the free market have agreed on a four-year plan to revamp Germany’s economy, combat climate change, digitize public services, and reverse the country’s demographic slide.
For the time being, they will have to deal with the country’s worst Covid-19 wave to yet, growing inflation, skyrocketing energy costs, dwindling consumer confidence, and a manufacturing sector plagued by supply bottlenecks, declining orders, and skilled labor shortages.
And he’ll have to do it all while leading an unusual coalition of his Social Democrats, the ecological Greens, and the center-right Free Democrats, three parties that often disagree on topics like taxes and immigration.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was given a ceremonial send-off in Berlin on Thursday after 16 years in office. A military tattoo played songs she chose, including a cover of an East German hit tune from the 1970s. Michael Kappeler/ZUMA Press/ZUMA Press/ZUMA Press/ZUMA Press/ZUMA Press/Z
Mr. Scholz, according to analysts, would have to avoid the mistakes of previous left-right coalitions, which have spent more time and political capital trying to hold themselves together than implementing their policy goals.
In the following months, pandemic management will certainly take the majority of the government’s resources. Mr. Scholz favors a comprehensive vaccination requirement to reduce growing fatalities and hospitalizations, a contentious proposal that has sparked demonstrations in Germany and would face many legal challenges when it goes into effect, presumably early next year.
Small but sometimes violent demonstrations have already erupted in the country’s southeast, which has among of the highest Covid-19 infection rates.
At the Bundestag on Wednesday, outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel passed on some long-standing difficulties to her successor.
Michael Kappeler/Zuma Press/Zuma Press/Zuma Press/Zuma Press/Zuma Press
Mr. Scholz’s foreign policy will be put to the ultimate test if he is compelled to take a stronger stance in the disagreement between Washington and Beijing, which Ms. Merkel managed to avoid.
According to Clemens Fuest, chairman of the Center for Economic Studies, a think group that advises the government, the intensifying competition between the two heavyweights has placed Germany and Europe under pressure and even stretched global supply networks.
He said the German government could do nothing to improve supply chains other than give port and customs agencies greater freedom, but it had to ensure that commerce with China continued to flow.
“It is in Germany’s interest to protect free trade… In terms of ideals and democracy, we are considerably closer to America, but we can no longer stay entirely linked with them—we must take our own path,” Prof. Fuest stated.
Mr. Scholz, a long-time supporter of the trans-Atlantic alliance, is expected to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps in terms of foreign policy, aligning Germany diplomatically with Washington on most major issues while maintaining some areas of disagreement dictated by Germany’s trade interests, such as the country’s close economic ties with China and, to a lesser extent, Russia.
Mr. Scholz will begin implementing his government’s structural overhauls while navigating the short-term crises, according to Prof. Fuest, which include upgrading the country’s patchy digital infrastructure and modernizing public administration, reducing CO2 emissions without harming growth or causing social upheaval, and managing a demographic decline that economists predict will result in an acute labor shortage within two years.
—This piece was co-written by Ann Simmons in Moscow and Joe Wallace in London.
Bojan Pancevski can be reached at [email protected].
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After Angela Merkel resigned as German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz has taken power. Scholz will be the country’s youngest chancellor in over half a century. Reference: olaf scholz chancellor.
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