In the front row, there will of course be the Chancellor, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz. But who will be the real number two in the German government? The liberal Christian Lindner, who will become finance minister on Wednesday, December 8, or the ecologist Robert Habeck, who will hold a “super-ministry” of the economy, climate protection and energy?
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Without question, for the two men, these appointments are consecrations. The first will occupy one of the most influential positions in German politics, as his predecessors, Wolfgang Schäuble – “Mr. Nein” during the euro crisis – have proved, then Olaf Scholz, who will become chancellor in two days.
Christian Lindner, supporter of an austere budgetary policy
Barely 42 years old, Christian Lindner, young chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), will hold the country’s purse strings as his coalition government, made up of Social Democrats, Greens and FDP, plans tens of billions of euros of investment for “modernize the country” and move its powerful industry towards carbon neutrality.
Holding an austere budgetary policy, he will have the delicate function of financing these projects without resorting to tax increases or debts not provided for by the Constitution. A major mission for this deputy with no ministerial experience.
For his colleague Robert Habeck too, this post of super-minister is a challenge. This 52-year-old North German is not an economist but a philosopher, author of novels and, since 2018, co-president of the environmentalist party Alliance 90/The Greens. Previously minister for energy transition, the environment and agriculture in his northern Land of Schleswig-Holstein, he is the first to be awarded both the economy and climate portfolios.
He will thus have to launch the ecological transition of the German economy – the first in Europe and the fourth in the world – and ensure that his country does everything to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 C° as required by the agreement. from Paris. He will thus have a right of scrutiny over the various laws and will also become vice-chancellor. On paper, he can call himself number two in the future government.
“Reconciliation between economy and ecology”
For Thorsten Faas of the Free University of Berlin, “Robert Habeck will however have to go through a trial period” because “he made certain errors during public outings, was imprecise on certain subjects”. Business circles are giving the benefit of the doubt to the future super-minister for the economy and the climate, known for his hyper-realism.
Like Winfried Kretschmann, the ecologist who has been running Baden-Württemberg, one of the bastions of the German automobile industry, for almost ten years, Robert Habeck does not frighten industrial circles. Nikolas Stihl, boss of the company of the same name, specializing in engines, even believes that he represents “the reconciliation between economy and ecology”.
Do not undermine the rules of economic and monetary union
Facing him, will Christian Lindner be tempted to play the bogeyman? Asked about this, he replied not “wanting to enter a government to constantly argue with its partners” but for to modernize his country. A posture also held by Robert Habeck.
With Europeans who are worried about the arrival of a liberal in the finance ministry, Christian Lindner also wants to be reassuring. In an interview with the ZDF television channel, he hinted at some flexibility. “Our country must act for stability but cannot act like a small Nordic country, did he declare. Nor can we unilaterally side with those who want to undermine the rules of economic and monetary union. This means that we have a leadership role to play. »
He and Robert Habeck have four years to prove it and prove it wrong to those who doubt an effective alliance between liberals and ecologists.
A page turns
The German Chamber of Deputies (Bundestag) will elect Wednesday, December 8 the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz as Chancellor and thus turn the page on Angela Merkel’s sixteen years in power. The latter will pass the reins to the one who will have been both a political adversary but also his vice-chancellor and finance minister.
Olaf Scholz will lead an unprecedented coalition of three parties: the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens and the liberals of the FDP. In the September 26 general election, the SPD came out ahead of the CDU-CSU Christian Democrats, followed by the Greens and the FDP.
For the first time in the history of Germany, the government is formed with gender parity. The foreign, interior and defense ministers, in particular, will be women.