• Germany's news in English

Meet Merkel's new 'super cabinet'

AFP · 16 Dec 2013, 10:31

Published: 16 Dec 2013 10:31 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Merkel faced reporters after a meeting of her Christian Democrats (CDU) and announced the widely expected reappointment of Wolfgang Schäuble as finance minister.

But she landed a coup by tapping mother-of-seven Ursula von der Leyen as Germany's first female defence minister. The news sparked frenzied media speculation that the 55-year-old was now Merkel's heir apparent.

"She will have an exciting, very challenging task and I am certain that she will do it very, very well," Merkel said.

CLICK HERE to see Merkel's new cabinet

Earlier Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the power-sharing government, said he would become Merkel's vice-chancellor and head up what the media labelled a "super ministry" responsible for the economy and energy policy.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier will return as foreign minister, a job he held under Merkel during her first term from 2005-2009 when she also led a left-right "grand coalition".

The SPD kept a pledge to fill half of the cabinet seats allotted to them with women.

Left-wing firebrand Andrea Nahles, the SPD's current general secretary, is to become labour minister, sharing responsibility for rolling out Germany's first national minimum wage – a condition the SPD set for the alliance with Merkel.

Party vice-chairwoman Manuela Schwesig is to take charge of family affairs, and SPD treasurer Barbara Hendricks is headed for the environment ministry.

Gabriel said another SPD deputy leader, Aydan Ozoguz, would become state minister for immigration, refugees and integration – the highest office ever held in Germany by a woman from the country's three-million-strong Turkish community.

Poisoned chalice

Von der Leyen, a rising star in the CDU, has at times openly challenged Merkel on policy – most recently this year over a call for binding quotas for female executives.

By handing her the high-profile defence brief, Merkel indicated that she did not bear a grudge and inspired rampant rumours about a bright political future in Berlin.

"With this appointment, she has definitively manoeuvered herself within the CDU into the role of the crown princess," news website Spiegel Online said of von der Leyen.

The "super ministry" that Gabriel, a former environment minister, will lead is to manage Germany's transition away from nuclear power and toward greater use of renewables.

The brief stems from Merkel's abrupt decision in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 to shut down all of Germany's reactors by 2022.

The radical policy shift has seen energy costs rise for consumers and driven up greenhouse gas emissions as the country turns to coal to fill a power supply gap.

Given the complexity of the task, many analysts saw the appointment as a poisoned chalice handed by Merkel to Gabriel, her likely challenger in 2017 should she stand for a fourth term.

"We have hard work ahead of us," Gabriel acknowledged but added: "This cabinet make-up fulfils the wishes of the SPD."

Analyst Claire Demesmay of the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based think tank, said Merkel and her returning foreign minister Steinmeier had a good working relationship despite different takes on complex countries such as Russia.

"He has always advocated a more pragmatic approach on Russia policy by calling for dialogue while Angela Merkel has taken a harder line," Demesmay said.

Merkel hailed Schäuble, the main architect of Germany's tough-love response to the eurozone crisis, saying he stood "for the stability of the euro and the policies connected to it".

She is to be formally elected by the Bundestag lower house of parliament on Tuesday, when the new cabinet will also be sworn in.

Germany, Europe's top economy, has endured nearly three months of political limbo since a September general election saw a triumph for Merkel and her Christian Union bloc but left them short of a ruling majority.

The ensuing coalition negotiations with the SPD, which came in a distant second place, lasted a gruelling seven weeks.

Gabriel put the coalition pact to an unprecedented binding vote among SPD members, 76 percent of whom backed the new government according to results he announced on Saturday.

READ MORE: Merkel's ex-foreign minister returns to role

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd