From the Covid-19 fight to digitalisation and a green transition, there are several challenges awaiting the new German coalition government under its Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s leadership.

The parties of Germany’s new coalition government under Olaf Scholz have signed the 177-page agreement under the logo "Dare More Progress" on Tuesday which includes several pledges from a green transition to modernising Europe’s biggest economy.

After 16 years of Angela Merkel, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged a "new beginning" for Germany as a range of tasks and challenges await the new government.

"It will be a new beginning for our country. In any case I will do everything to work towards that," said Chancellor Scholz.

The coalition is made up of Scholz's centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens, and the pro-business Free Democrats.

The agreement includes a road map for curbing climate change - a priority for the Greens. 

Introducing more socially focused policies, digitising the bureaucracy and tackling migration are among the leading issues for the new government.

Above all, though, the government faces the immediate task of pushing down near-record coronavirus infection rates.

The pandemic

Germany has a troubling challenge ahead due primarily to the high number of anti-vaxxers across the country.

So far 69 percent of the population has been vaccinated with two doses while 21.3 percent have received a booster shot - but that still leaves 16 million people aged 12 or above who are unvaccinated.

The new Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, described the pandemic as the country’s biggest health crisis since  World War II.

"It is quite clear to me that this will be the most difficult task of my life as well," Lauterbach said.

According to the Robert Koch Institute(RKI), 61,288 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed on Thursday  as well as 484 new deaths associated with Covid-19.

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A "2G" rule sign, allowing only those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) to enter, is seen at a restaurant in Munich, Germany, December 6, 2021. (Reuters)

For the pandemic battle, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has established a permanent crisis team, which includes virologists, epidemiologists and politicians, to report on a daily basis.

"We should make vaccination mandatory in places that care for particularly vulnerable groups," Scholz said earlier this month.

Bulent Guven, deputy chairman of the International Democrats Union in Germany, tells TRT World that the new government will try to persuade these people by imposing new measures and plans to vaccinate 30 million people (number includes booster shots) by the end of the year.

Digitalisation and dismantling bureaucracy 

"We want to continue supporting this trend with record investments in digitisation, scientific research and climate protection," Scholz told reporters a month ago.

From old computers in schools to an archaic dependence on fax machines in the health sector, the German public sector has become out of date.

Germany’s decentralised political system is partly blamed for falling behind other developed countries in terms of modernisation in the public sector, former Chancellor Merkel’s digital adviser said before.

Teacher Eike Postler holds a tablet computer on which quarantined teacher Tobias Honnen is seen from his home office during a virtual English lesson, at Alexander Coppel Gesamtschule school during the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Solingen, Germany November 17, 2020.
Teacher Eike Postler holds a tablet computer on which quarantined teacher Tobias Honnen is seen from his home office during a virtual English lesson, at Alexander Coppel Gesamtschule school during the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Solingen, Germany November 17, 2020. (Reuters)

"The system was designed when there were no platforms … no digitalization, no IT," Katrin Suder, the chair of the Digital Council government advisory board, said.


The division of power among states prevents the country from pushing ahead to digitalise the country’s public sector. Now, the Scholz government aims to dismantle bureaucratic hurdles by digitalising the public sector and making it more transparent.

Speeding up approval processes for projects is also among the targets of the government. 

Their aim is to speed up approval processes, particularly when it comes to infrastructure projects.

Guven said that Germany's ministry of digitalisation, which lagged behind the USA and China in the field of artificial intelligence, was established by the new coalition to speed up the progress.

Energy green transition

The new government has presented plans to step up climate protection efforts entailing far-reaching reforms for the utility sector and across manufacturing industries, buildings, transport and agriculture.

There are radical targets in green transition thanks to the participation of the Green Party in government which heads the joint economy and energy ministry.

Wind turbines turn behind a solar farm in Rapshagen, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. An analysis of the incoming German government's climate plans has concluded that they aren't sufficient to put the country on course to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris accord.
Wind turbines turn behind a solar farm in Rapshagen, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. An analysis of the incoming German government's climate plans has concluded that they aren't sufficient to put the country on course to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris accord. (AP)

The coalition partners aim for 80 percent renewables in the power mix by 2030, up from 65 percent targeted earlier which means more solar and wind power investments.

The coalition expects power demand to hit 680-750 terawatt hours a year by 2030, a third more than expected in 2021.

But beyond those goals there is a wider culture change ahead.

"Here, it is desired not only to reduce foreign energy dependence, but also to become an important exporter in the production of the renewable energy sector," Guven said about the green energy transition.

Social welfare 

The new government has been planning to change the unemplıyment payment programme known as Hartz IV with what they call a citizen's income. It plans to increase it to €449($508) a month for a single person

Against the aging population of Germany, the coalition has reached a consensus to keep the retirement age at 67 and pensions above 48 percent of the current average income levels.

To prevent populist parties that have recently experienced a boost in popularity across the western world, social justice will be given importance by the government, Guven said.

Within this scope, “the minimum wage per hour is planned to increase from €9.82($11.08) to €12($13.54),” Guven added.

Guven also underlined the housing shortage in the country and added that the new government plans to build 400,000 affordable houses every year.

A majority of Berliners voted in favour of expropriating thousands of housing units of major landlords, such as Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, in September, to help reduce rents in the German capital.
A majority of Berliners voted in favour of expropriating thousands of housing units of major landlords, such as Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, in September, to help reduce rents in the German capital. (Reuters)

The supply of houses remains tight and the demand has been rising in Germany over the last decade. Despite the pandemic, the housing boom continued like never before. 

For example, A decade ago, the median price to purchase property in Berlin per square meter was under 1,700 euros ($2009). Now, seller's demand over 5,000 euros ($5909) per square metre - around a 200 percent increase in 10 years.

Foreign policy and migration

All major German parties support the European Commission’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum, first proposed in 2020.

One of the pact’s key proposals is introducing quotas for relocating refugees within the EU according to a principle of shared responsibility. 

Under this atmosphere, “the issue of immigration has become a matter of life and death for Europe,” Guven said.

He referred to history and added that many empires collapsed because of immigration.

Guven thinks the necessary policies, like the 2016 Turkey-EU Agreement over migrants and refugees, will be followed to prevent immigrants from coming to Europe. 

When it comes to foreign policy, Guven said: "I do not expect a foreign different from the Merkel period" and “the traditional German foreign policy will be followed,” he finished.

Source: TRT World