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POLITICS

Germany’s Greens name co-leader Annalena Baerbock as candidate to succeed Merkel

Germany's Green party on Monday named its co-chair Annalena Baerbock as their candidate to succeed Angela Merkel, throwing down the gauntlet to the chancellor's conservatives who were locked in increasingly vicious infighting for her crown.

Germany's Greens name co-leader Annalena Baerbock as candidate to succeed Merkel
Annalena Baerbock of the Greens on April 19th. Photo: DPA

“Both of us want the job, but in the end, only one can do it. So today is the moment to say that the Greens’ first chancellor candidate will be Annalena Baerbock,” said the party’s joint co-chairman Robert Habeck.

Baerbock, 40, is the first chancellor candidate ever nominated by the Greens.

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Yet with the party polling in second place behind Merkel’s divided conservatives, the Greens now have a genuine chance of becoming the biggest party and taking the chancellery.

“Today, we begin a new chapter for our party and – if we do well – for our country,” said Baerbock.

“I am standing for renewal, others will stand for the status quo,” she said, adding that “climate change is the biggest task of my generation”.

Baerbock posted on Twitter about how pleased she was to be named as candidate for chancellor by her colleague Habeck.

“A policy that foresees what’s new, that listens to people and that trusts them – that is what I stand for,” she said in the tweet photo.

A former trampolining ace who studied international law at the London School of Economics, Baerbock has never held a government role.

As a teenager, she took part in trampoline competitions, winning three bronze medals in German championships. The sport taught her to “be brave”, she has said.

But the mother-of-two and trained lawyer has surged in popularity in recent months, using the media spotlight on the pandemic to criticise the government for not prioritising children during the crisis, while laying out her own proposals.

‘Won’t be fobbed off’

With a reputation as someone who knows her brief inside out and with strong ties to the grassroots, Baerbock has stepped out of the shadows to run neck-and-neck with Habeck in popularity rankings.

Observers have described her as someone “who won’t be fobbed off” when drilling into complex issues, in an echo of Merkel’s methodical and science-based approach to policy.

Critics charge that the young mother might not be ready for the election battle and the likely coalition haggling afterwards.

The sharp-witted former journalist has countered that “three years as party leader, being a lawmaker and mother of young children tend to toughen you up”.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Greens to put forward first chancellor candidate

The Greens’ focus on gender equality also played in her favour as barring her nomination, the field of chancellor hopefuls would be crowded with mainly older men.

“It would also be an indictment of the Greens if a woman were to give way to a man just as the chancellery is within reach,” noted news weekly Der Spiegel before the decision was announced.

Meanwhile, Habeck was praised for his ability to chart out an overarching vision while also connecting with voters.

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POLITICS

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP

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