The new German Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz presented the ministers of his SPD for the new federal government on Monday, thus creating the conditions to succeed the long-time Chancellor Angela Merkel this week.
It came after the Greens said their members had approved the deal reached last month, and 86% voted for it in a vote.
The other two parties – Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democrats – overwhelmingly supported the agreement at weekend conventions.
Lauterbach becomes Minister of Health
The most watched appointment was that of Minister of Health as Germany struggles to lower its highest coronavirus infection rates to date from the pandemic. Scholz decided on Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist and media-savvy legislator who lacks leadership experience, but who was one of the most prominent voices in Germany who urged caution and strict measures against COVID-19.
“The pandemic is far from over,” said Scholz. “Most of the people in this country certainly wanted the next health minister to be a specialist who can do it really well, namely Karl Lauterbach.”
The German heads of state and government announced tough new restrictions last week, mainly targeting the unvaccinated. In the longer term, Parliament is considering a general vaccination mandate.
When asked about the Christmas holidays, Lauterbach said, “It must be an important goal to reduce the number of cases to such an extent that we can recommend trips without endangering people.”
“Germany’s security in the hands of strong women”
When announcing his decisions for the domestic and defense departments, Scholz said that Germany’s “security will be in the hands of strong women”.
Nancy Faeser, lawyer and head of the Hessian Party Association, was an unexpected choice for Germany’s first female interior minister, who also oversees the federal police and domestic intelligence.
Faeser said a major focus would be on fighting right-wing extremism, which she described as “the greatest threat” to the country.
The outgoing Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht becomes the new Defense Minister.
Özdemir becomes the first minister of Turkish origin
The Greens and the Free Democrats have already named their ministers. Scholz Vice Chancellor is Robert Habeck, who leads the Greens together with Annalena Baerbock. He will head an economics and climate ministry, a new combination.
Baerbock becomes Germany’s first female foreign minister
One of the five cabinet members of the Greens is Cem Özdemir, who has become the first federal minister of Turkish origin six decades since the arrival of guest workers from Turkey after the Second World War.
Özdemir, a longtime vegetarian, said that as agriculture minister he had no plans to impose a meatless lifestyle on others, stressing that reducing Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions should be the overarching goal of the next government.
“We will be judged by this,” he said.
The Greens, however, have to overcome the resistance of the Free Democrats, whose boss Christian Lindner will become finance minister and thus quasi number 3 in the new government. Lindner’s party has a strong market economy approach and has successfully blocked a universal speed limit on German motorways in the coalition agreement.
Habeck, co-chair of the Greens and future climate minister, admitted he would have liked to see a speed limit, which experts say would be an easy way to reduce emissions. But in return for allowing Germans to race on the autobahn, the new coalition government is committing to measures that amount to ending the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in the 2030s, he said.
Scholz had promised a gender-equitable cabinet – what it is if you don’t count the Chancellor.