Four key players to run Germany: Scholz, Lindner, Habeck and Baerbock

Incoming coalition fills its chancellor, finance, climate economy and foreign policy roles

Germany's new cabinet has filled four of its most significant roles, with the two leaders of the Green party set to take charge of the country's foreign policy and its response to global warming.

Annalena Baerbock will be Germany’s first female foreign minister, bringing a critical stance on Russia and a call for greater co-operation on climate change to Berlin’s top diplomatic job.

Robert Habeck will lead Germany’s race to net-zero carbon emissions in an expanded economy and climate ministry.

Their names were put forward late on Thursday after the Greens reached a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Free Democrats (FDP) which carved up ministries in the new government.

It means four of the coalition’s top jobs are filled by the party leaders, with SPD election winner Olaf Scholz set to become chancellor and FDP chief Christian Lindner nominated as finance minister.

The SPD will need to fill its other assigned posts, such as the health and defence ministries, before the government assumes power in early December.

Olaf Scholz (SPD), Chancellor

Mr Scholz will succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor after leading the SPD out of a years-long decline to a first election victory since 2002.

His campaign was largely based around his image of unflustered competence, which contrasted with gaffes by rival candidates.

Despite being from a different party to Ms Merkel, he openly compared himself to her and sought to imitate her reassuring style.

The resurgent coronavirus outbreak will immediately test his crisis management skills, with critics urging him to show more leadership on the issue.

Mr Scholz, 63, was mayor of Hamburg before joining Ms Merkel’s fourth government as finance minister.

His finance role gave him a taste of international politics as he built support for a minimum corporate tax rate which was agreed by G20 countries.

Robert Habeck (Green), Economy and Climate Protection Minister

The Greens are taking on a new so-called “super-ministry” which will drive the coalition’s agenda to make Germany carbon-neutral.

Under the coalition agreement, every new law will have to be assessed for its climate impact — although Mr Habeck will not have a veto.

He will be expected to fulfil the coalition’s promises of expanding renewable energy and investing in public transport while working under financial constraints imposed by the FDP.

“We have a ministry that reconciles the economy and protecting the climate,” Mr Habeck said.

Mr Habeck, 52, is a camera-friendly novelist who put his ambitions for the chancellorship aside at this year’s election, but could run in the future.

He will succeed Mr Scholz as vice-chancellor, a largely symbolic post typically given to junior coalition partners.

Christian Lindner (FDP), Finance Minister

Mr Lindner, the leader of the pro-business FDP since 2013, got the job he had openly coveted during the election campaign.

He had his eye on a deal with the centre-right Christian Democrats, but after the election result made that unfeasible, he positioned the FDP as the “lawyer for the centre ground” in the alliance with the SPD and Greens.

Mr Lindner, 42, will have the task of ensuring that the coalition’s reform agenda does not breach the FDP’s low-tax, low-borrowing principles.

A slick former internet investor, he made digitalisation a key issue during the campaign and found common ground with the Greens on the need to modernise Germany.

After beating Mr Habeck to the finance job, a role which both men had been tipped for, Mr Lindner accepted that the Greens would take the vice-chancellorship — quashing speculation that the role would be split in two.

“That’s the result of the election,” which saw the Greens win 14.8 per cent of the vote to the FDP’s 11.5 per cent, he said.

Annalena Baerbock (Green), Foreign Minister

Ms Baerbock made history as the first Green candidate for the chancellorship, but her campaign lost its way and she was eventually outmanoeuvred by Mr Scholz.

She will take on a Foreign Ministry facing challenges such as the border crisis in Belarus and the fallout from the Taliban victory in Afghanistan.

An international law expert, she has signalled a more assertive stance on Russia and China and opposes the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline — an issue yet to be fully resolved by the coalition partners.

Ms Baerbock, a 40-year-old former trampolining medallist, hopes to use the role to promote international co-operation on climate change.

Germany holds the presidency of the G7 next year, and the coalition wants to use this to push for an international “climate club” and a unified global carbon price.

“We can’t meet the Paris climate goals as Germans alone,” Ms Baerbock told broadcasters. “There will be a European, and a German, climate foreign policy.”

Yet to be decided: Health Ministry

The Health Ministry will have an outsize role in the new government as it tries to stop the Covid-19 pandemic from knocking its plans off course.

The coalition agreement assigns the ministry to the SPD, but Mr Scholz is taking longer than the other party leaders before making his nominations.

There is speculation that the job could go to Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist turned SPD politician and one of the most prominent voices of caution during the pandemic.

Mr Lauterbach has expressed interest in the job, but Mr Scholz would not be drawn on the possibility.

Updated: November 26th 2021, 12:26 PM
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