© Reuters. Designated Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a presentation of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) at the party headquarters in Berlin, Germany, December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
(Adds Lambrecht, Lauterbach)
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are nearing a coalition deal as they prepare to take charge of Europe’s biggest economy for the next four years.
As top candidate for the SPD, which narrowly came first in September’s election, Olaf Scholz is on track to become chancellor, replacing conservative Angela Merkel.
Here is some background on Germany’s new leader as well as a look at who will be filling various ministerial positions.
Chancellor: Olaf Scholz (SPD)
The 63-year old former mayor of the northern port city of Hamburg served as finance minister under the outgoing chancellor, Angela Merkel, as part of the “grand coalition” between his SPD and her conservatives.
He engineered a multi-billion-euro rescue package for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
He has said his first foreign trip as chancellor would be to France, a nod to the importance of a functioning Franco-German alliance to reforming the euro zone and strengthening the European Union.
Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economy, Climate Protection, Digital Transformation and Energy Transition: Robert Habeck (Greens)
The ecologist party’s co-leader, 52, is expected to head a beefed-up ministry that has overseen both the distribution of financial lifelines to businesses affected by lockdown and implementing a strategy to develop large-scale green hydrogen. In future, it will also have responsibility for the climate issues that are the Greens’ raison d’etre.
Finance: Christian Lindner (FDP)
The 42-year old leader of the libertarian FDP is widely expected to become finance minister. He has said he will keep in place strict limits on new public borrowing and not raise taxes to finance ambitious investments to wean the economy off fossil fuels and upgrade Germany’s infrastructure for the digital age.
His championing of austerity and strict budget rules in the euro zone could set him on a collision course with counterparts in southern EU states such as Italy and Spain.
Foreign Affairs: Annalena Baerbock (Greens)
Baerbock, 40, is expected to become Germany’s first female foreign minister. The Greens’ co-leader will have to balance her party’s demands for a tougher line on Russia and China on human rights with Scholz’s likely preference not to risk a confrontation with the two countries over issues such as Taiwan and Ukraine.
Defence: Christine Lambrecht (SPD)
Lambrecht, 56, who currently serves as justice minister, is set to become the third woman in a row to become defence minister after the current minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and now-European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Lambrecht, who has been outspoken against right-wing extremism, would be in charge of the German army, which has been plagued by a series of reports in recent years about radical elements within its ranks.
Health: Karl Lauterbach (SPD)
The 58-year-old trained doctor, who has been an outspoken proponent for tougher coronavirus restrictions throughout the pandemic, is set to become the next health minister.
Lauterbach, who studied epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, has advocated for mandatory vaccinations, stricter restrictions on the unvaccinated and the closure of all bars and clubs until the fourth wave of infections is over.
Factbox-Germany’s next government: the likely line-up