Germany’s incoming government reveals plans to legalize cannabis and phase out charcoal

The incoming government’s vision for Germany includes plans to legalize cannabis. It also aims to phase out coal by 2030 and have at least 15 million electric cars on the road by the same year. Mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations would also be considered, amid rising cases in the country.

Under the deal announced in Berlin on Wednesday, Scholz of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) will lead a tripartite coalition with his pro-business Green and Free Democrat partners. A closed September election and two months of negotiations to form a new government follow.

Scholz, accompanied by coalition partner leaders, told a press conference that the “traffic light government” is here, referring to the red, yellow and green colors of the respective parties. “We want to be bold when it comes to the weather and the industry,” he said.

The agreement, which sets out the government’s vision for its four-year term, will now go to the consideration of party members at large. Barring last-minute inconveniences, Scholz will be sworn in as chancellor early next month.

The coalition parties of the new government are not traditional bedfellows. Business-friendly Free Democrats tend to be more aligned with the center-right than with the SPD and left-wing Greens.

Acting Chancellor Angela Merkel receives a bouquet of flowers from Acting Finance Minister Olaf Scholz during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

But on Wednesday, Germany’s tripartite coalition government presented a united and smiling front to the assembled reporters.

The future government spells the end of the Merkel era, and sends his center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), into the opposition after 16 years in power.

Incoming Chancellor Scholz will take over the helm of Europe’s largest economy at a time of growing diplomatic uncertainty in the European Union, namely aggression from Russia and Belarus, and threats to the rule of law from Poland and Hungary.

As Germany emerges from its worst climate disaster in recent years, devastating floods during the summer that killed 180 people, the Greens will also play an important role in leading the country towards a future without coal.

The new government plans to phase out coal by 2030, eight years earlier than Merkel’s party’s previous 2038 target. “Step by step, we are ending the era of fossil fuels,” the coalition agreement said, adding that it was securing measures to “put Germany on the 1.5 degree path” of global warming.

It also plans to introduce the controlled sale of cannabis “to adults for recreational purposes.” Only authorized stores would sell the cannabis, “ensuring the protection of minors.” The coalition will review the measure in four years.

Mandatory vaccines to consider

But foremost among the considerable to-do list facing the incoming government is the acute Wave Covid-19 that takes over the country. Germany is fighting escalating cases that have pushed Europe back to the epicenter of the pandemic, prompting heavy restrictions from neighboring countries and protests from lockdown-weary citizens across the bloc.

On Wednesday, Scholz told reporters that the new coalition will consider vaccinations mandatory because “vaccination is the way out of this pandemic.”

The number of cases is particularly dire in eastern German states, where health officials warned that overloaded hospitals could soon run out of beds for intensive care patients.

While Germany has vaccinated around 80% of its adult population, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), it still lags behind southern European countries such as Spain and Portugal.

On Monday, Health Minister Jens Spahn did not mince words when he urged more people to get vaccinated. Spahn told a news conference in Berlin that he was sure that by the end of this winter, everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, recovered or dead”, in relation to the Delta variant.

Diplomatic shifts

Meanwhile, the migration crisis in the Poland-Belarus border, which Western leaders have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating with the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has escalated tensions with the volatile neighbor of the European Union.
Western leaders agree that democracy is under attack.  How they can defend it is less obvious

The crisis has also focused more on Russia’s influence in Europe, most notably the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will bring gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. German authorities halted the pipeline approval process last week amid problems with the company’s operating license.

Elsewhere, the populist governments of Poland and Hungary continue to push the boundaries of EU membership by rolling back core democratic values. Recently, the highest court of the EU ruled Poland had violated the laws of the bloc concerning judicial independence.

Scholz’s predecessor Merkel made a name for herself as the steady hand of EU diplomacy, in various ways leading the bloc through European debt and the migration crisis. It remains to be seen whether the new chancellor will also take on the role of EU leader, or leave those shoes for someone else to fill.

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