The Daily Telegraph

Liberal coalition deal agreed in Germany

Incoming chancellor will take country in liberal direction with plans to legalise cannabis

- By Justin Huggler in Berlin

Germany will become significan­tly more Left-wing under a deal to form a new coalition. The government, led by Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, will pursue a more liberal direction, with plans to legalise cannabis and allow self-identifica­tion for transgende­r people. The time for immigrants to gain German citizenshi­p will be cut to five years – or three in the most deserving cases. The coalition also pledged to make Germany carbon neutral by 2045 and make 80 per cent of electricit­y renewable by 2030.

GERMANY will be significan­tly more welcoming to migrants under a deal to form a new coalition government agreed yesterday.

The government, led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, will take the country in a liberal direction after the departure of Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat chancellor, with plans to legalise cannabis and allow self-identifica­tion for transgende­r people.

Under the reforms, the time for immigrants to gain German citizenshi­p will be cut to five years – or three in the most deserving cases. It will also be easier for recognised refugees to bring their families to Germany.

The incoming government pledged to make Germany climate neutral by 2045 and produce 80 per cent of electricit­y from renewable sources by 2030.

It unveiled plans to build hundreds of thousands of affordable new homes a year, a quarter of them paid for directly by the taxpayer. The voting age is also to be lowered to 16.

“We are united by our belief in progress,” Mr Scholz said as he presented the plans. “We want politics of real impact.”

He is expected to be sworn in as chancellor in two weeks after he secured the deal to lead Germany’s first three-way coalition.

The government still has to be approved by parliament, in a vote to be held in the week of Dec 6, but that is expected to be a formality. Mrs Merkel will stay on as caretaker chancellor until her successor takes office, but her authority is already draining away.

The coalition leaders rejected calls from Mrs Merkel for a new lockdown and plan to focus on raising the German vaccinatio­n rate instead.

She summoned them to her office late on Tuesday night and is said to have pressed for a two-week full lockdown, but was rebuffed. Instead Mr Scholz announced plans to form a new Covid task force and make vaccinatio­n compulsory for hospital and nursing home workers. “Vaccinatio­n is the way out of this pandemic,” he said.

The coalition will bring together Mr Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrat party (SPD), the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party.

The FDP appeared to have secured the biggest prize despite being the smallest party after its leader, Christian Lindner, was named finance minister.

German policy on Russia and China is expected to become considerab­ly tougher and shift away from Mrs Merkel’s conciliato­ry tone after the Green Party was given the foreign ministry.

The Greens have yet to name ministers but Annalena Baerbock, a hardliner on Moscow and Beijing, is expected to be appointed. Ms Baerbock could align Germany’s policy much more closely with that of Britain. She has repeatedly called for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to be scrapped, putting the new government on a potential collision course with Russia.

The Greens have also been given a new ministry for business and climate in addition to the existing environmen­t ministry. Robert Habeck is expected to be named to the new post, and will have overall control of ambitious plans that include phasing out coal by 2030.

Mr Scholz’s party will control the interior ministry and oversee a migrant policy that is strikingly more liberal than Mrs Merkel’s – despite her decision to open Germany’s borders in 2015. The coalition pledged to provide new ways for asylum seekers to reach Germany legally, including humanitari­an visas.

Hubertus Heil of the SPD is the only minister in Mrs Merkel’s coalition expected to stay in his role as social security minister. He will oversee plans to increase the minimum wage to €12 (£10) an hour. The SPD will control a new housing ministry to oversee plans to build 400,000 affordable homes a year. It will also name the defence minister, with the coalition planning to allow the German military to make more extensive use of drones.

The Greens will control the agricultur­e and family ministries, and the FDP justice, transport and education.

It is understood that none of the parties wanted to take on the health ministry, which is seen as a poisoned chalice in the light of the pandemic. In the end, the SPD will control it.

Two months after its general election, Germany finally has a new government, a three-party agreement melding disparate political outlooks that will be hard to contain. The “traffic light” coalition is made up of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the German Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), whose leader Olaf Scholz will be the new chancellor.

The immediate challenge for the administra­tion concerns its handling of a dramatic upsurge in Covid cases, with Germany recording another 70,000 cases and more than 300 deaths yesterday. The three parties have differing views, with the FDP opposed to nationwide lockdowns and compulsory vaccinatio­n while the SPD is said to be undecided. The disease is exacerbati­ng the German divide, with infections relatively lower in the west of the country while in the east hospitals are overflowin­g.

Another point of potential attrition is energy and environmen­tal policy, which has been placed in the hands of the Greens. The coalition deal envisages phasing out coal by 2030 and gas by 2040. Since Germany has the largest population in the EU and is the bloc’s biggest energy user due to its manufactur­ing sector, it is hard to see how its future needs will be met. Germany has already turned its back on nuclear power following the accident that befell the reactor in Fukushima in 2011. Much of its gas comes from Russia with the dispute over the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline still unresolved. Whether and when to proceed with this scheme will be another issue to be resolved.

Germany is dependent on imported fossil fuels which the Greens will presumably seek to eradicate from the energy mix. The pace of decarbonis­ation will shift reliance onto intermitte­nt renewables such as wind or solar which cannot possibly meet the country’s demand. While technologi­cal advances will help, the timetable seems far too ambitious to be realistic.

One sign of the political shift Leftward is a list of “progressiv­e” policies including cannabis legalisati­on and family reunion for immigrants, the latter a legacy of the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ill-starred decision to open the country’s borders in 2015. Though she remains in office for another fortnight, with problems mounting in Germany she looked relieved to be handing over the reins after 16 years in power.

 ?? ?? Olaf Scholz, centre, the incoming chancellor, with members of the SPD, FDP and the Green Party after the final round of coalition talks
Olaf Scholz, centre, the incoming chancellor, with members of the SPD, FDP and the Green Party after the final round of coalition talks
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