In his first major policy speech to parliament, Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised that his new administration will win the fight against the coronavirus epidemic and make Germany “structurally suitable” for the twenty-first century, vowing that measures to tackle climate change will be essential to its agenda.
As he launched a presentation of his government’s program, Scholz, who took over from longstanding Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, proclaimed, “We have no time to squander.” He made it clear that the new coalition of his center-left Social Democrats, environmentalist Greens, and pro-business Free Democrats will be a progressive one.
Scholz begins work as Germany battles the pandemic’s largest wave of illnesses to far. There are evidence that recent restrictions are slowing infections, and the new chancellor said the government is on track to meet a goal set in November to deliver 30 million vaccine doses into arms by the end of the year.
“Yes, things will improve; yes, we will prosecute the fight against this epidemic with zeal; and yes, we will win this struggle,” he assured legislators.
“We will do all that is required; the government has no red lines,” Scholz added. “We will not rest until we have all reclaimed our previous life and all of our liberties,” says the administration.
Scholz also stated that his government is open to criticism and will listen to critics, but that “a tiny number of unfettered radicals” attempting to impose their will on society will not be tolerated. Parts of the Querdenken movement — a loose collection of organizations opposed to the pandemic restrictions — are becoming increasingly extremist, according to German security officials.
“We will utilize the following four years to make Germany fundamentally suited for the world of the twenty-first century,” Scholz said, referring to the incoming government’s overall theme of development. He stated that this goal involves everything from upgrading the country’s government to investing in offshore wind farms, as well as the construction of new homes and trains.
“Climate protection will be a major cross-cutting responsibility in our administration, and we want to be judged on how well we handle it,” Scholz added.
The new administration intends to increase efforts to combat climate change by growing the use of renewable energy and pushing Germany’s coal-fired power plant departure forward from 2038 to 2030, “ideally.” It also intends to modernize the 83 million-strong country, including strengthening the country’s infamously inadequate cellular and internet networks.
To combat growing rental rates, the government also intends to raise Germany’s minimum wage and build hundreds of thousands of additional flats. It also intends to implement more liberal social policies, such as legalizing recreational cannabis and lifting a restriction on physicians advertising their ability to conduct abortions.
It intends to attract more competent immigrants by easing the road to German citizenship and removing dual citizenship limitations. Simultaneously, it pledges to make increased attempts to remove immigrants who do not qualify for asylum.
“We are an immigrant nation… but we must become an even greater integration country,” Scholz added.
The new leader emphasized the importance of foreign policy consistency in his statement. “The success of Europe is our most crucial national priority,” he told MPs.
Scholz cautioned that any action against Ukraine would come at a “high price,” but he also emphasized Germany’s offer of “constructive engagement” with Moscow.
“We must shape our China strategy around the China that we find in reality,” he added.
“This also entails not turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights situation and naming transgressions of global principles by their proper names,” Scholz stated. But, he continued, “it doesn’t change the fact that a country the size and history of China has a prominent position” in the international community.
This includes giving Beijing collaboration on issues like climate change and the pandemic, as well as “fair economic competition for mutual gain, with the same norms for everybody,” according to Scholz.