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Germany's Olaf Scholz faces questions from lawmakers

January 12, 2022

The new German chancellor is facing the first parliamentary question session of his tenure. The coronavirus pandemic tops the agenda on a day Germany reported a record number of infections.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Chancellor Olaf Scholz will have to answer lawmakers' questions three times a yearImage: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/dpa

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed the Bundestag on Wednesday to answer questions from lawmakers.

Scholz — who gave his first briefing to parliament as chancellor in December — opened with a statement about his government's plans. After that, he faced questions on this and other topics, including the coronavirus pandemic and the issue of mandatory vaccines.

The session comes as Germany reported a record number of new daily COVID cases, surpassing 80,000 for the first time.

Before answering questions, Scholz outlined the measures taken so far by federal and state governments, including a limit on private gatherings and stricter restrictions for non-vaccinated individuals. 

Scholz supports COVID vaccine mandate

Scholz said that measures had "had the desired effect," with Germany's infection figures until now being lower than in other countries. However, Scholz acknowledged that, with the latest daily case numbers comparable to other places, he was in favor of a general vaccine mandate.

The decision to be vaccinated was "not a decision you make just for yourself, and that's why mandatory vaccination is the right thing to do," Scholz said.

As Scholz had begun to speak, members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) held up placards bearing the words "Freedom instead of division." The lawmakers lowered their signs after a warning from Bundestag President Bärbel Bas that such actions were not acceptable in the chamber.

Scholz: Use of nuclear energy 'unsustainable'

During his address, Scholz also called the use of nuclear energy "unsustainable" and claimed it was not "economically sensible."

Scholz labeled nuclear power as "expensive" and noted many issues related to its use are unresolved, such as the disposal of nuclear waste. He said he agreed with Germany's "right" decision to phase out nuclear power.

The German chancellor also said his government would ramp up the use of alternative energy in the country, particularly hydroelectric power. He said these policies would "secure the industrial prosperity and global competitiveness of our country." 

Scholz said climate change will be a major focus for Germany as it takes over the G7 presidency this year.

Scholz lauds diplomacy to resolve Ukraine crisis

In regards to the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, Scholz expressed optimism about diplomatic efforts currently underway.

"There are now talks taking place on four levels. This is good progress," Scholz said.

"The troop maneuvers along the Ukrainian border are a cause for concern, and worry me greatly on a personal level," he added. "All diplomatic means should be used to improve European security."

What else will be debated in the Bundestag?

Scholz's address is being followed by debates on the plans of individual ministries in the German government which will take place until Friday.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser — from Scholz's own center-left Social Democrats (SPD) — was set to speak, as well as Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the neoliberal Free Democrats and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock from the environmentalist Greens.

The "traffic light" coalition of the three parties has committed to an agenda of modernizing Germany and combating climate change

Among the key policies of the new government are:

  • Introducing a minimum wage of €12 ($13.55) per hour;
  • Make housing affordable, capping rent increases more tightly and building 400,000 new homes a year, including 100,000 using public funds;
  • Relieving electricity customers by no longer having the billion-euro renewable energy surcharge financed on electricity bills;
  • Establishing a new Federal Ministry for Construction and expanding the Ministry of Economics to include climate protection;
  • Obtaining 80% of Germany's electricity from renewable energies by 2030;
  • Lowering the voting age to 16;
  • Legalizing the recreational use of cannabis.
  • Allowing dual citizenship and simplifying the immigration process.

Germany's Scholz addresses parliament

Like his predecessor, Angela Merkel,, Scholz — as head of government — is required to answer questions from members of parliament three times a year. The sessions are usually scheduled just before Easter, the summer break and Christmas.

However, Scholz moved the date forward in order to face parliament right at the beginning of his tenure as chancellor.

rc, wd/rt (AFP, epd, dpa)