“We will strike out on a new path”
“Significant challenges lie ahead of us and there are crucial decisions to take,” stressed Federal Chancellor Scholz in his first government statement before the Bundestag. The coalition would be a government of progress, he said – progress in technology, the community, society and culture. “In the 21st century, we need more progress, not less – but it has to be smart progress,” said Scholz. The Federal Chancellor went on to say that Germany would strike out on a new path even where the existing system still seemed to be working well.
“We will win this fight”
“We have no time to lose,” said Scholz. This applied first and foremost to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, he said. The Federal Chancellor was adamant: “We will fight the battle against this pandemic with the utmost determination. And we will win the fight.” At the same time, he appealed to people's solidarity: “Help us get this job done! Help us all prevent avoidable suffering. Get vaccinated! Protect your life and the lives of others!”
If everyone cooperated, he said, the goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year was feasible. “If we achieve this, we will have taken a major step forward by the end of the month,” said Scholz.
Society was not divided, because the overwhelming majority of citizens were showing solidarity, caution and good sense, said Scholz. But he also said that it was not acceptable for a tiny minority of extremists to try to impose their will on society as a whole. “Our democracy is robust,” said the Federal Chancellor, and the rule of law would be uncompromising in dealing with this minority of haters.
Society of respect
The guiding principle of this government was a society of respect, said Scholz. According to Scholz, respect meant “no one looking down on others because they believe they are more powerful, better educated or wealthier. That alone would move us a long way forward,” he said. Many of the hurts and grievances within our society were caused by the fact that people did not feel sufficiently acknowledged, he said.
But in Germany, there was no such thing as people's jobs being of greater or lesser value, he stressed: cashiers, health workers, parcel carriers and ticket collectors deserved just as much respect as academics and artists.
Scholz called for a greater sense of everyone being on an equal footing and less condescension. This was about clear-cut material, social and economic issues and about remedying grievances, he said: the examples he cited were low wages, precarious employment without a collective agreement, day-to-day poverty, exploding rents and the lack of prospects for people in rural and eastern Germany. Injustices such as these were poison to our social cohesion, he said, which is why we are going to fix them.
Boosting solidarity in society
The concept of respect was also important when it came to living alongside those of us with non-German roots, said Scholz, adding that they were all entitled to participate fully in our society. Germany was a country of immigration but had to improve as a country of integration, said Scholz: the major problems of our time could only be overcome if this sense of solidarity in society was not lost.
Decade of investment in the future
The Federal Chancellor announced a decade of investment in the future. The aim was to lay the foundations for a new technological age, he said. There were plans to invest billions in new housing, railways, charging stations, offshore wind farms, photovoltaic plants and power grids, said the Federal Chancellor, adding that a modern administration was needed for the transformation to succeed. Not everything that was desirable would be feasible right away, he said, but the measures required to manage this transformation certainly could and would be financed.
Climate protection was to become a central cross-cutting task of the Federal Government, said Scholz, and a comprehensive emergency programme was to be launched as early as 2022. By 2030, 80 percent of the power supply was to come from renewable energy sources, he said.
Many people in Germany preferred to travel by car and there was no reason to change this, said Scholz, but the means of propulsion would have to be climate-friendly. The Federal Chancellor said that by 2030, 15 million electric cars were expected to be on the road in Germany.
The country had to become a leading technology hub once again, said the Federal Chancellor, so investments in future technology and in the digitisation of the administration were indispensable.
Greater fairness between tenants and landlords
The statutory minimum wage of twelve euros was to be launched as early as 2022, said Scholz: this was possible in a rich, economically strong country such as ours – and it was necessary, too. He said that up to ten million workers would benefit. A basic child allowance and a citizen’s income would be introduced, said Scholz, and
equality between women and men had to become a reality in the course of this decade. The word ‘race’ in the Basic Law would be replaced.
400,000 new flats – 100,000 of them publicly funded – were to be built every year, he said, and the rent cap was to be extended until 2029. Greater fairness was required between tenants and landlords, said Scholz.
The success of Europe is our most important national concern
Franco-German friendship continued to be the indispensable foundation of the European Union, said Scholz, adding that the success of Europe was our most important national concern. With regard to the developments in Ukraine, Scholz said: any violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity would have its price. The Federal Government was still prepared to engage in dialogue with the government in Moscow, he said; however, it was clear that this would only succeed in the context of the EU. Any policy towards the East was to come from the EU as a whole, not from Germany alone, said Scholz.
German-American friendship and NATO provided the vital foundation for our security, said the Federal Chancellor, adding that investments would be made to meet the NATO targets.
“At the beginning of the 2020s, we are facing great tasks – and great changes,” said Scholz in summary. The Federal Government would take on these challenges, he said. “And we are very confident that we will overcome them,” said the Federal Chancellor. Germany was a strong country, he said. “Together we don’t have the slightest reason to be afraid of the future,” stressed the Federal Chancellor.