The Social Democratic leader took the opportunity to announce that Karl Lauterbach, an elected official from his party who is also an epidemiologist, would occupy the key position of Minister of Health in the new government.
In recent weeks, the fourth wave has swept over Germany, with tens of thousands of new cases of infection recorded every day. The most populous country in Europe has deplored more than 100,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Due to the occupancy rate in emergency rooms, patients are transported from certain regions, such as Bavaria, to be treated elsewhere in the country.
To prevent the spread of the virus, some Christmas markets, which are must-sees in the country in December, have been forced to close.
Given this context, managing the pandemic is undoubtedly the first challenge facing the new Chancellor and members of his government.
In this decentralized country, where each region (land) has significant powers, developing a national strategy has its share of difficulties.
Olaf Scholz does not hide his desire to step up efforts to ensure wider vaccination coverage. So far, around 70% of Germans are adequately vaccinated, putting the country behind other European nations like France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Before becoming Chancellor, Olaf Scholz said he was in favor of the idea of imposing vaccination, as announced by the government of neighboring Austria. The German parliament will have to vote on a bill in this direction by the end of the year.
The new chancellor will have to counter opposition, explains Alexandre Robinet Borgomano, head of the Germany program at the Montaigne Institute.
According to the expert, opposition to the vaccine is observed among supporters of various political parties, in particular on the extreme right, but also among certain environmentalists, whose formation is part of the government coalition. He adds that some liberals, also coalition partners, could be critical of a vaccination tax that could go
against the defense of freedoms.
Although it does not promise to be easy, the management of this crisis could benefit the new leader, believes Alexandre Robinet Borgomano, especially because of the important criticisms leveled at the outgoing government in this file.
” If he happens in the coming months to massively increase the number of vaccinations and to break the chain of contamination, we can consider that he is a good leader. “
A green shift
If the management of the pandemic is essential at the start of this mandate, the government will have to quickly take action on another major issue.
During the election campaign this fall, one issue came up when German voters were asked what their priority was: the environment and the fight against climate change.
By forming a coalition with the liberals, but above all the Greens, Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats have committed to act ambitiously on this issue.
However, the task promises to be major.
Within the European Union, Germany remains the country which emits the most greenhouse gases.
The coalition agreement says that, to reverse the trend, the government will introduce bills to reduce emissions in several sectors, such as transportation and construction.
Above all, the new ruling alliance promises to end coal-fired power generation in 2030, eight years ahead of schedule.
Berlin will rely in particular on the rapid development of renewable energies to compensate for this shortfall.
According to Alexandre Robinet Borgomano, the implementation of such an environmental plan requires massive investments which will have to result in the abandonment of the strategy of
zero debt, which has long been the signature of Angela Merkel’s government.
The speed at which the transition promised by Olaf Scholz can be effected could also be influenced by external factors, notably
the looming energy crisis in Europe, but also tensions with Russia over the supply of natural gas to Germany.
Germany and the world
This natural gas issue is also reminiscent of one of the other major projects that the new government will have to undertake in Berlin: redefining its policy in terms of international relations, in particular vis-à-vis Russia and China.
During the election campaign, the green candidate Annalena Baerbock, who will serve as foreign minister, spoke of the need
to increase the pressure on Russia in the Ukrainian record. She also said that Germany and Europe were in a
systemic competition with China.
Germany intends to break with the Merkel years in this change through trade which has turned out to be a failure, explains Alexandre Robinet Borgomano, from the Institut Montaigne. A change of tone that could be accompanied by
economic consequences for German companies in Chinathat the government may have to contend with.
After 16 years in power under Angela Merkel’s conservatives, the new government intends to embody change.
To implement his reforms, the new chancellor, known for his calm and pragmatism, will therefore have to face his share of external challenges… not to mention that of managing a three-party coalition, a first in the country’s history.