(Berlin) ‘A New Beginning’: Social Democrat Olaf Schulz inaugurated a new era in Germany and Europe with his successor, Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Wednesday, who stepped down without impeachment after 16 years in power.
At the end of a highly regulated day, the conservative leader, roughly equal to, in nine days, the longevity record of her mentor, Helmut Kohl (1982-1998), handed the baton to her former minister, becoming the new strongman in the premier European economic power.
Before leaving the Chancellery without being disturbed despite the applause of the staff.I Merkel called on her successor to “work for the good” of Germany. In return, Mr. Schulz praised her for “everything she (she) has done for our country” and promised a “fresh start”.
The woman dubbed the “Eternal Chancellor” will now be approaching after 31 years of political life a new segment of her life, still shrouded in mystery.
“I wanted to see mI Merkel for the last time […] It represents stability for the whole world, including Europe and Germany,” Enrique Velasco, 30, told AFP.
Mr. Schulz, who was elected by a comfortable majority of the Bundestag’s 736 members, has taken up his new position and will be able to face the first difficulties of his four-year term.
In the morning, the 63-year-old took the oath before the Bundestag by reading Article 56 of the Basic Law, in which he pledged in particular to “dedicate” his forces to the benefit of the German people.
Marginalized in his party two more years ago, Schulz is now at the helm of an unprecedented team formed with the Greens and the Liberals of the FDP.
Olaf Schultz will take over the government for the first time, made up of men equal to the number of women, some of whom hold key positions such as foreign or domestic affairs.
Mr. Schulz has many times received appreciation for the minister, and the former mayor of Hamburg, from leaders around the world.
French President Emmanuel Macron Olaf Schultz promised to write “the rest together”. The President of the European Commission, German Ursula von der Leyen, intends to work with him “for a strong Europe”.
Olaf Schultz will meet them on Friday on his first trip abroad.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “impatient” to work with Mr Schulz, whose country is a “strong ally” of London.
For its part, the Kremlin wished a “constructive relationship” with the new chancellor, after years of tensions between Moscow and Berlin, fueled by the poisoning of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny and espionage issues blamed on Russia.
The game was not won with Moscow: In his first interview as an adviser, Mr. Schultz threatened Russia, in the event of an invasion of Ukraine, with “consequences” for the controversial gas pipeline in the north connecting the two countries.
US President Joe Biden, who has been highly critical of this energy project, said he wants to develop “strong relations” between Washington and Berlin “to make progress on current global challenges.”
But on the domestic scene, Mr. Schulz and his team will have to face the first hurdles, especially the critical health situation.
“Don’t let the epidemic divide us in the long run,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called, mobilizing, particularly for the far right, against the vaccine commitment, which is supposed to go into effect in February or March.
The new chancellor will also have to deal with an unfavorable economic situation, affected by weaker than announced growth and the return of inflation.
Mr. Schulz has a slew of other projects to be undertaken that do not necessarily win German approval, such as over-the-counter cannabis, the Bundeswehr’s purchase of armed drones or the right to vote at the age of 16.
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