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Germany's Scholz urges unity in first New Year's address

Rebecca Staudenmaier
December 31, 2021

In his first New Year's message, Olaf Scholz highlighted the challenges that flooding and the pandemic wrought on Germany in 2021. "We will be able to master the major changes of our era… if we pull together," he said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers his first New Year's address in Berlin
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that while 2022 will bring its own challenges, society will be able to tackle them by working togetherImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Scholz: Let's all help to defeat COVID

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his first New Year's speech that bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control "will be a major task in the new year." 

In the address, broadcast in full on Friday night but released in writing ahead of time, Scholz noted the numerous, growing challenges facing Germany and the rest of the world.

"We're at the beginning of a new decade. A new era is dawning. An era that will be successful if we actively shape it. Because we can make a difference if we remain determined and take our fate into our own hands," Scholz said.

Scholz: Let's all help to defeat COVID

He concluded the address with an appeal: "My great wish for 2022 is that we keep standing together."

The pandemic continues to rage, climate change poses an ever-growing risk, hundreds of lives were lost in deadly floods that hit western and southern Germany this summer and tensions along the Russian-Ukrainian border are causing global concern as the world heads into the new year.

But with the turbulent times of the past 12 months, Scholz said Germany can tackle the challenges by working together even in the darkest times.

"These days, some people complain that our society is 'divided.' I'd like to take this opportunity to make very clear that in fact, the opposite is true: our county is standing together."

DW's Michaela Küfner on Scholz's New Year speech

Curbing COVID 'swiftly and resolutely'

The coronavirus pandemic was a persistent theme throughout Scholz's speech — with Germany and the rest of the world preparing to enter into another new year amid record-breaking spikes in COVID-19 cases.

"We are all aware that the pandemic is not over yet," Scholz said, noting that the omicron variant has made the situation especially difficult.

Scholz on NYE: 'A new era is dawning'

"Many of you are wondering what this means for us and what will happen next. I promise you that we will respond to it swiftly and resolutely."

He thanked the German public for adhering to coronavirus rules and urged people to get vaccinated or seek a booster shot. Scholz also said the German government plans to issue 30 million additional vaccine doses in January alone.

"Speed is what matters now. We have to move faster than the virus!" 

Transforming economy to tackle climate change

Combating climate change will also be a priority for the German government in the new year, according to Scholz.

"Within less than 25 years, we want Germany to become climate-neutral. To achieve this, we will move forward with the greatest transformation our economy has seen in more than a century."

Within this timeframe, Germany will seek to make itself independent from coal, oil and gas in order to reduce emissions — as well as boost renewable energy sources and infrastructure.

Scholz's new three-party coalition government will also prioritize raising Germany's minimum wage in 2022 to €12 per hour ($13.60) — up from the current rate of €9.60 per hour.

Looking further afield, Scholz said that Germany and the European Union will work together to tackle the mounting foreign policy challenges facing the world.

"International cooperation is important. In a world of what will soon be 10 billion people, we can only make our voice heard if it is joined by many others," the chancellor said.

When Germany takes over the G7 rotating presidency starting on January 1, Scholz will prioritize making the group "a trailblazer for a climate-neutral economy and a just world."

The end of an era — and the start of a new one

For Germany, it's the first time in 16 years that another political face is appearing on television screens on New Year's Eve. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered the traditional speech from 2005 until 2020 — a shift that Scholz acknowledged in his own address.

"Today, we bid farewell to a year that has brought with it a host of changes. One small change is that today I am the one speaking to you on New Year's Eve as your Federal Chancellor."

He thanked Merkel for the globally-approved "smooth, amicable" transition of power, saying that it shows the "strength of our society."

While the last year brought difficulties and turbulent changes, the new German chancellor pointed to the hope that can be found in people's readiness to help others.

"We will be able to master the major changes of our era... If we pull together as a community."

Edited by: Mark Hallam, Farah Bahgat, Rob Turner, Darko Janjevic

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