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Germany's post-Angela Merkel government has agreed on a new direction for the country


Germany met its new post-Angela Merkel government today. The three political parties that have been negotiating for weeks agreed on the shape of their new coalition under a new chancellor. They also agreed on a long list of priorities and a new direction for Germany.

NPR's Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz joins us to talk about this. Hey, Rob.


SHAPIRO: Tell us about these three parties and the direction that they intend to take Germany.

SCHMITZ: Yeah. Germany's new coalition will be made up of the center-left Social Democrats, the libertarian Free Democrats and the climate-focused Green Party. And they have just released a coalition agreement that makes many bold and aggressive promises that, if met, will take Germany far beyond where Merkel has taken the country. First and foremost, climate change and a carbon-neutral economy is a very big part of this agreement. This new coalition government aims to phase out coal, ideally within the next eight years - sooner than Merkel had planned. It also aims to have Germany rely on 80% renewables by 2030 - a bold goal if it can be achieved and one that will require a complete transformation of Germany's industrial landscape. Soon-to-be Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke about this today. Here's what he said.


OLAF SCHOLZ: (Non-English language spoken).

SCHMITZ: And he's saying here this deal means the biggest industrial modernization of Germany in more than 100 years. And they will require the expansion of renewable energies at a completely different pace than Germany's been used to because it means that German citizens and its economy will most likely depend on electricity from renewable energy from now on. He said this is both good for our country and for the rest of the world because if Germany develops the technologies and know-how needed to make its industrial sector green and globally competitive, then this could be a model for everyone else.

SHAPIRO: All right. So apart from fighting climate change, what are the major priorities in this agreement?

SCHMITZ: Well, liberalizing social policies in Germany seems to be another overarching goal for this incoming government. Scholz's long-held plan of a 12 euro minimum wage is in the works. That equals around $14 an hour, and that means a pay raise for more than 10 million Germans. That's more than 10% of the country. He also announced that the new government would aim to build 400,000 new homes a year and have the government subsidize a quarter of that new stock. This is an attempt to chip away at Germany's looming housing crisis and out-of-control rents in much of urban Germany. The deal also included loosening the rules around citizenship so that immigrants can get dual citizenship faster. That's an attempt to help solve the country's aging workforce. And the agreement also pledged to legalize cannabis for adult use.

SHAPIRO: That is a lot on a domestic agenda, and we haven't talked about the rest of the world yet. What's on the foreign agenda?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, there's going to be a lot of changes in that category, too. Although Scholz didn't name his new cabinet members, it's expected that the Green Party's Annalena Baerbock will be the country's first female foreign minister. And she wants Germany to play a more assertive role on an international stage. Interestingly, it will put Germany on a closer path to the United States. The Green Party cares deeply about human rights, and Baerbock has vowed to do more to stand up to autocratic leaders like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China. In fact, the new coalition agreement includes language about China's threat to Taiwan and says Germany's new foreign policy will place a greater focus on values.

SHAPIRO: When does the transition take place?

SCHMITZ: Well, this coalition agreement now goes to the three parties so that their members can vote on it. And it's expected that within two weeks, we will see the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government. And Olaf Scholz and this three-party coalition government will begin to govern Germany.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz. Thank you.

SCHMITZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.