A week after his election as chancellor, Olaf Scholz (SPD) has reassured citizens that the Corona crisis can be overcome. "Yes, things will get better again, yes, we will fight this pandemic with the utmost determination, and yes, we will win this crisis," he said in his first government statement in the Bundestag. Scholz stressed, "We have no time to lose."
The 63-year-old said that December, with its dark days, was already taking its toll on people's spirits, and that at the moment there was also a lack of atmospheric Christmas markets and convivial Christmas celebrations. "I am aware, in these days it is sometimes difficult not to lose heart."
No one is doing really well in these times, he said, including himself. "I know that keeping your distance and being happy don't go well together," Scholz said when presenting his traffic light government's program for the next four years.
In doing so, he promised the people of Germany that he would do everything in his power to overcome the Corona pandemic. "The federal government will not rest for a single moment, and we will move every lever possible until we all get back our former lives and all our freedoms," Scholz said. "We will do everything that is necessary, there are no red lines there for the federal government."
At the same time, Scholz again appealed to the population to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Germany would be in a different position this winter if more people in the country had already been vaccinated and boosted, he explained.
He reiterated the goal of having 30 million doses administered as first, second or booster vaccinations by the end of the year. Since November 18, 19 million doses have already been administered. Now it is a matter of achieving the rest in the remaining days until the end of the year. This is the only way Germany will manage to put the wave behind it, Scholz said.
The new chancellor declared war on the group of extreme opponents of the Corona protection measures. "We will not put up with a tiny minority of disinhibited extremists trying to impose their will on our entire society." This "tiny minority of the hateful" will be countered with all the means of the democratic constitutional state, he said. Germany is a defensible democracy, Scholz said.
Scholz praises his predecessor Angela Merkel
In his government statement, Scholz paid tribute to his predecessor Angela Merkel. Referring to her service to Germany over the past 16 years and explicitly including the smooth change of government, Scholz said, "Thank you, Dr. Merkel." He said the noiseless transfer of power in Berlin, in particular, had been received "worldwide with much admiration and respect."
Merkel had "served the Federal Republic of Germany for 16 years in an impressive manner as Chancellor, always oriented to the cause and the facts, always completely unpretentious and without airs and graces, always with courage and with wisdom, with pragmatism and with prudence."
New opposition positions itself
His first government statement will be followed by a debate lasting around two and a half hours, during which the CDU/CSU parliamentary party leader Ralph Brinkhaus (CDU) will take on the role of the opposition leader for the first time.
With the AfD and the Left Party, the other two opposition parties will also position themselves on the first coalition of the SPD, Greens and SPD at the federal level.
It is customary for a new chancellor to present the guidelines for the work of his government shortly after his election. In doing so, he is likely to draw heavily on the 177-page coalition agreement entitled "Dare more progress.
Brinkhaus has already stated that he cannot see this progress in the coalition agreement.
The SPD, Greens and FDP had signed the coalition agreement at the beginning of December - around ten weeks after the Bundestag elections. A week ago, Scholz had been elected by the Bundestag as the ninth chancellor of the Federal Republic.
The main topics of his government declaration will include the fight against the Corona pandemic and the planned measures to combat climate change. However, foreign policy issues are also likely to be discussed, such as the crisis triggered by the Russian troop buildup on the border with Ukraine.
After the debate, Scholz will travel to Brussels, where he will attend the summit of the so-called Eastern Partnership. This involves EU consultations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which will also address the current crisis.
Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron plan to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj before the summit. On Thursday, Scholz will attend his first regular EU summit as chancellor.
Image by Tobias Rehbein