A Look at Future German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and His Stance on COVID, Russia, Foreign Policy
As Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) rolled out a coalition deal with the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens on Wednesday, it was confirmed that Olaf Scholz will succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.
Olaf Scholz and his Social Democratic Party have won the German election, outperforming Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that has dominated the country's politics for over 15 years.
He's now set to take Merkel's reigns after the coalition deal was approved by all three parties, with the new government expected to be sworn in by the Bundestag in early December, should everything go as planned.
Here's a quick look at Scholz and what can be expected from him as German chancellor.
'Calm, Measured, Steady'
Scholz is a moderate among his largely left-leaning fellow Social Democrats, and, as noted
by Corinna Hoerst, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Brussels, initially did not receive much support in the SPD.
"So we don't know yet who he will gather around him and who will influence his leadership style," she said.
According to the deputy director of GMF's Berlin office, Sudha David-Wilp, centrism is one of the things then-Vice Chancellor Scholz has in common with Merkel.
"She always governed from the center and I think he will also try to do that if he does become chancellor, but it will also depend of course on what coalition parties demand," said David-Wilp, cited by CNN.
Stance on Foreign Policy & Russia
Long before becoming Merkel's successor, Scholz said that a new strategy is needed when it comes to relations with Russia
and other Eastern European countries.
According to the new coalition deal, the incoming chancellor and his government are ready to "cooperate more" with Russia.
"We want to cooperate more with Russia on topics of the future (for example, hydrogen, healthcare) and in the fight against global challenges (climate, environment)," the coalition deal says, according to Business Insider.
Scholz will push for forming a stronger and more sovereign European Union, as well as maintaining good relations between Germany and the United States.
The parties have also reportedly agreed to beef up the EU's economic and monetary union and maintain Germany's participation in NATO's nuclear sharing agreement, while also expressing readiness to reform the bloc's fiscal rules, the Stability and Growth Pact.
Social Issues, Climate Change
Under the incoming government, Germany will be expected to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The coalition agreement also outlines the goal to phase out nuclear power and accelerate the exit from coal "ideally" by 2030.
The year 2030 has also been set as a deadline for having at least 15 million fully electric cars in Germany and increasing rail freight transport by 25 percent.
Among other things, the parties plan to make multiple citizenship possible in Germany, while also simplifying the procedure of naturalisation.
What's more, the coalition government plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis.
"We will introduce the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption purposes in licensed stores," the coalition document reportedly says. "This will control the quality, prevent the circulation of contaminated substances and ensure the protection of minors."
Shortly after the coalition deal emerged, Scholz took to Twitter to voice his coalition's support for mandatory vaccination for vulnerable groups of people and praised the continuing vax campaign in the country.
The coalition deal particularly envisages support for further research and needs-based care around the long-term effects of COVID-19, as well as for chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) by establishing a network of centres of excellence and clinics.
His stance comes as Germany sees a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, and less than 70 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated.
The incoming government – which Scholz touted as "progressive" – faces a slew of other issues aside from the raging coronavirus pandemic, like the post-Brexit fallout that Europe is grappling with and the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border.