MUNICH — Germany moved one step closer to unveiling a new government that would see the end of longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel's rule after parties negotiating a coalition said an agreement had been reached Wednesday.
The country’s center-left Social Democrats had been negotiating a deal with the Green party and the pro-business Free Democrats since winning a narrow election victory Sept. 26 in the race to replace Merkel’s outgoing government.
Leaders of the three parties announced that an agreement that will pave the way for center-left leader Olaf Scholz to replace Merkel over the coming weeks had been reached and presented to the public.
In a separate statement published online, Green party chairs Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck said they believed the coalition agreement would set the course for a renewed focus on addressing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the climate crisis.
“The country is facing major challenges. The pandemic must be overcome, the climate crisis contained, sustainable prosperity re-established and cohesion redefined in the face of social change,” they said.
“All of this requires changes. With this coalition agreement, after intensive negotiations, we succeeded in setting the course for this,” Baerbock and Habeck said.
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If party members give a greenlight to the deal, it will replace Germany’s current “grand coalition,” which is made up of the country’s two biggest political parties.
Scholz, 63, who has served as Merkel’s finance minister and vice chancellor since 2018, is expected to replace the chancellor after she announced in October 2018 that she would not be running for a fifth term.
The deal to secure his rise to power came as Merkel, 67, took part in what was likely her last Cabinet meeting. During the meeting, Scholz handed her a bouquet of flowers.
News of Wednesday’s deal was somewhat overshadowed by the worsening Covid-19 situation in Germany, which has seen record numbers of infections in recent days.
Before offering any comment on the coalition agreement, Scholz said that he wanted to first talk about the surge in cases, warning that “the situation is serious.”
He announced that his chancellery would have a crisis team, as well as an expert group, that would focus on combating the spread of Covid.
He also promised that the next government would look to boost Germany’s vaccination campaign and put in place a vaccine mandate for the health care sector.
“Vaccinating is the exit from the pandemic,” he said.