German government starts to take shape


Olaf Scholz

Reuters BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany’s Social Democrats on Friday named two seasoned pro-European politicians to key posts in a new government, with Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz to become finance minister in Europe’s largest economy and Heiko Maas becoming foreign minister.

The SPD’s designated leader Andrea Nahles and Scholz announced the party’s six ministry appointments at a news conference. Maas, who was justice minister, will replace Sigmar Gabriel as foreign minister, Nahles said.

The SPD on Sunday said two-thirds of its members had voted in favor of a repeat of the ‘grand coalition’ with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives that has governed Germany since 2013. The new government will be sworn in on March 14.

Nahles said Scholz, 59, a lawyer who backs closer European integration, would also be vice chancellor in the government, underpinned by a coalition deal which incorporates SPD-inspired commitments to deepening cooperation in the European Union.

Merkel’s conservatives are upset that she agreed to give the SPD the finance post to secure the coalition deal after eight years under budget hawk Wolfgang Schaeuble, who was known for his insistence on austerity for indebted eurozone states.

The SPD generally favors more spending than the conservatives but the parties have agreed to stick to the goal of a balanced budget with no new debt.

But Jens Spahn, a Merkel critic who since his appointment as health minister-designate has been seen as the leader of her bloc’s arch-conservative wing, warned in a newspaper interview that he would resist deeper integration.


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    Heiko Maas

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