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POLITICS

Climate, weed and citizenship : The new German government’s roadmap

The centre-left-led alliance forming Germany's next government has declared ambitions to make the Bundesrepublik greener and fairer.

A German citizenship test.
A German citizenship test in Munich, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

In their coalition agreement, the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the liberal FDP addressed issues from climate protection to foreign policy to cannabis. 

As the German parliament gets ready to formally elect the SPD’s Olaf Scholz as chancellor on Wednesday, here are the main points of the new coalition’s roadmap.

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No new debt 

Germany’s no-new-debt rule had been suspended in the coronavirus pandemic, allowing the government to borrow billions to finance its way out of the crisis.

But the country’s next government – known as a “traffic-light” coalition because of the parties’ red, green and yellow colours – plans a return to the rule that is anchored in the German constitution.

In their agreement, they pledged to reinstate the so-called debt brake by 2023.

Maintaining the debt brake was a red line for the FDP, and Social Democrat Finance Minister Olaf Scholz – who will be Germany’s next chancellor – has also long been an advocate of the rule.

The parties also agreed to not raise taxes during their mandate, according to a tweet by FDP leader Christian Lindner – a win for his party which has refused to raise any fiscal pressure on taxpayers.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is showing the world it can do grown-up politics

Minimum wage, housing, vote at 16

In return, the Social Democrats secured their electoral promise of raising the minimum wage to €12 ($14) from the current €9.60.

To keep housing affordable, the coalition agreed to build 400,000 new homes a year, including 100,000 using public funds. A cap will be introduced on
rental hikes, limiting any increases to a maximum 11 percent in three years.

The three-party combo also agreed to lower the voting age to 16 – something likely to favour the Greens and FDP which have younger supporters than Angela Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU), who are largely backed by Germany’s army of pensioners.

People queue at a voting station in Berlin on this year's federal and state election.
People queue at a voting station in Berlin on this year’s federal and state election. The new government wants to lower the voting age to 16. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Citizenship and immigration

Germany’s incoming coalition is much more immigration friendly than the outgoing government led by Merkel’s conservatives.

The coalition parties want to overhaul and modernise the immigration system, with promises to “simplify the path to German citizenship”.

In their initial agreement, they said the plans are to allow for “multiple citizenships” – which is music to the ears of many foreigners in the Bundesrepublik. The existing rules require that most non-EU citizens have to give up their other citizenship if they want to become German.

READ MORE: Germany’s new coalition government to allow dual nationality

Climate 

The Greens’ main win came in the form of an accelerated exit from coal energy, which is to be brought forward by eight years to 2030.

The parties also agreed to “further develop” the country’s current climate protection law in 2022, and to “bring about all necessary laws, regulations and measures” on this front.

The expansion of sustainable energy will be “drastically accelerated and all hurdles and obstacles will be removed”, with the goal of ensuring that sustainable energy will make up 80 percent of the country’s mix by 2030.

“All suitable roof surfaces will in future be used for solar energy. For new commercial properties that will be compulsory, while for private new buildings, that will become the rule,” they said.

With an eye on Germany’s powerful automotive industry, the parties agreed to put 15 million purely electric cars on the road by 2030, up from just over 500,000 currently.

Combustion engine vehicles will no longer receive approval from 2035.

Sovereign Europe

The parties emphatically say they “want to increase Europe’s strategic sovereignty” — likely to please the continent’s second biggest power France, which has made this a priority of its EU presidency beginning in 2022.

But the transatlantic relationship will remain a “central pillar” for Germany, and NATO is an “indispensable element” for the country’s security, the text says.

And potentially grating to Poland or Hungary, the parties want “an EU which protects its values and rule of law internally and externally”.

Presenting the coalition deal, Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of the Greens who will take on the role of foreign minister, promised to put human rights back at the centre of German diplomacy and advocated more firmness towards Russia and China.

Legalise cannabis

Recreational use of cannabis will be legalised under the new government.

“We will introduce the controlled distribution to adults for consumption purposes in licensed stores,” the parties say in the document.

“This will control the quality, prevent the circulation of contaminated substances and ensure the protection of minors.”

The Greens and FDP have long been pushing to legalise cannabis, while the SPD has proposed testing regulated distribution of the drug in pilot projects.

READ ALSO: How Germany’s next government is planning to legalise cannabis

Abortion

The parties have pledged to abolish paragraph 219a, a controversial piece of Nazi-era legislation that makes it illegal to advertise abortion services.

“Doctors should be able to provide public information about abortions without fear of prosecution,” they say in the document.

Member comments

  1. So the16-year-olds will be allowed to purchase cannabis too?

    I mean, if you are allowed to vote at 16 and determine what is best for all citizens/residents, who have far greater life experience than you and you are still legally a child, then you must be allowed to consume cannabis….or not?

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POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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