Olaf Scholz was sworn in as Germany’s next chancellor today, marking the end of Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure.
Scholz, 63, has held a wide range of government positions over the decade: He’s been a member of parliament, a popular mayor of Hamburg and both the labor minister and the finance minister in coalition governments under Merkel.
Schmitz says the new chancellor has a deep understanding of the political process, knows how to get things done and is always striving for compromise — and as a result, is often compared to Biden.
While Scholz does govern like Merkel, Schmitz notes some key differences between the two leaders: Scholz grew up in West Germany, so will likely focus more on stronger trans-Atlantic relationships and a more unified European Union.
Half of Scholz’s 16 cabinet members are women, including — for the first time — all of the ministries in charge of domestic and international security.
One of the biggest problems Germany is facing right now is the raging coronavirus pandemic, so Schmitz notes there was considerable interest in who Scholz would pick to be the next health minister.
He went with Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist, Social Democratic politician and outspoken critic of Merkel’s handling of the pandemic. Lauterbach believes the government needs stricter public health guidelines and advocates for making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory (some 30% of Germans are not vaccinated).
“That tells us that Scholz wants an outspoken leader to be managing this pandemic, not someone who was a politically safe choice,” Schmitz says.
The pandemic is, of course, just one of the challenges facing Scholz and his administration.
Schmitz notes that one of the new government’s biggest goals is to transform Germany’s economy into a “greener, more digitized version” without raising taxes.