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Annalena Baerbock to become Germany’s first woman foreign minister

Green party co-leader Annalena Baerbock is to become Germany's first woman foreign minister, her party announced Thursday, as the country's incoming coalition government takes shape.

Annalena Baerbock in Berlin
Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Green Party and soon-to-be Foreign Minister, arrives at coalition negotiations on November 17th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

The 40-year-old mother-of-two is expected to take on the role in early December once the new government – made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), the liberal FDP and the Greens – is formally installed.

Baerbock has signalled a more assertive stance on China and Russia, putting respect for human rights and the rule of law at the centre of German diplomacy.

Green party manager Michael Kellner said in a statement that co-leader Robert Habeck has been tapped to head a “super ministry” grouping together economy, energy and climate protection.

He will also become vice chancellor.

Although Baerbock, a former medal-winning trampolinist, failed in her bid to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor in September’s election, she nevertheless led her party to a record score of 15 percent.

The third-place result paved the way for the Greens to return to governing after 16 years in the opposition, in a novel three-way coalition with Olaf Scholz from the SPD as the presumed next chancellor.

The three parties – known as the “traffic light” alliance after their party colours – unveiled their coalition agreement on Wednesday, as well as the division of ministerial posts.

The agreement must still be formally endorsed by all three parties, expected to be a formality. Scholz is set to be sworn in by the Bundestag in the week starting December 6th.

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Five cabinet posts have been allotted to the Greens. Although the appointments of Baerbock and Habeck were widely expected, the party was plunged into a last-minute power struggle over who would fill the remaining three jobs.

In keeping with Scholz’s promise that the next cabinet would have gender parity, only one of those three could go to a man – pitting the party’s radical “Fundi” wing against Baerbock and Habeck’s more pragmatist and centrist “Realos” camp.

The tussle was resolved in evening talks on Thursday, with Kellner announcing that popular lawmaker Cem Ozdemir, who has Turkish roots, would lead the agriculture ministry. Ozdemir hails from the “Realo” camp.

Pandemic crisis

Several other top ministerial picks have also been revealed in recent days, with FDP leader Christian Lindner, a budgetary hawk, poised to become the new finance minister at the helm of the EU’s top economy.

The incoming government’s coalition pact includes promises to spend heavily on climate protection and infrastructure while sticking to Germany’s self-imposed debt limits.

Faced with a fierce fourth wave of coronavirus infections that saw Germany pass the mark of 100,000 Covid deaths on Thursday, they also pledged to create a crisis team to tackle the pandemic.

Outgoing Merkel however signalled she didn’t think current efforts went far enough, saying on Thursday that “every day counts” and quick action was needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

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POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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