VDL faces fight for her job as EU chief suffers immediate blow after Merkel farewell
Ursula von der Leyen says young people give her confidence
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Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was preparing to take over as German chancellor after agreeing a coalition deal on Wednesday that aims to modernise Europe’s largest economy, accelerate its green transition and bring the curtain down on the Angela Merkel era.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) said they would present their three-way agreement with the ecologist Greens and the libertarian Free Democrats (FDP) at a news conference at 2pm (GMT) in Berlin following two months of talks.
The deal will install Germany’s first three-way federal coalition government since the 1950s and end 16 years of Merkel-led conservative government, marking a new era for relations with Europe and the rest of the world.
The alliance – named a traffic light coalition after the three parties’ respective colours – saw the Greens win the spot for Minister of State for Culture and Media for the first time.
The ministry will give the party the right to propose a possible new EU Commissioner at the next European elections.
The move has prompted suggestions the party could oust Ursula von der Leyen from her top EU position, with the vice chair of the party, Jamila Schafer, already saying it would be “cool” to have a Green Commission President.
She tweeted: “A green Commission President – how cool would that be?
“I’m already looking forward to the next European election campaign.”
Reporting on the news, Financial Times EU correspondent Mehreen Khan said: “German Greens have won the right to propose the country’s next EU commissioner.
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“There has been an expectation that VDL would serve two terms.
“It’s a canny move which will mean VDL will feel obliged to keep Greens on side for next 2.5 years.”
He added: “One suggestion is that VDL could secure Greens support if she agrees to stand on a transnational list at next EU elections.
“Thus far, debate over pan-EU lists has been killed by VDL’s centre right EPP party.
“Either way, German Greens manoeuvre looks like a master stroke for a party that has never even had a certified EU commissioner.”
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The new government faces immediate challenges, with Germany tackling its worst COVID-19 surge yet and Europe grappling with the fallout from Brexit and a crisis on the EU’s border with Belarus.
Sources told Reuters on Tuesday that the parties had agreed to commit to a coal phase-out by 2030 and to end power generation from gas by 2040, reflecting the coalition’s focus on accelerating climate protection measures.
A four-page memorandum on the deal that Reuters obtained on Wednesday showed they had also agreed to raise the minimum wage to 12 euros per hour from 9.6 euros, resulting in a pay rise for around 10 million people.
Writing in talking points distributed to party officials, they said: “We are in politics to create a society based on respect.”
Some political analysts fear the parties will struggle to bridge ideological divides, which could in turn paralyse the 27-nation EU, in which Germany is a driving force.
The parties have so far defied predictions that their coalition talks could last into next year or fail after an inconclusive election in September.
While the Greens and SPD are widely seen as natural centre-left partners, the fiscally hawkish FDP have historically been closer to Germany’s conservatives.
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