Olaf Scholz is sworn in as Germany's new chancellor
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Mr Scholz took over from EU heavyweight Ms Merkel earlier this month, sworn in to replace the leader who had lasted a record 16 years in power. Mr Scholz leads the centre-left Social Democrats in a coalition with the Greens and Free Democrats.
Mr Scholz served as vice-chancellor under Merkel and managed Germany’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic as finance minister.
As Mr Scholz gets into his stride as German Chancellor, an expert on the political economy of European integration and EU economic governance told Express.co.uk that Mr Scholz will prioritise EU goals and closer ties with France’s president, Emmanuel Macron.
Professor Iain Begg of the London School of Economics and Political Science said that Mr Scholz’s objectives with the block will be “about achieving the long-term European ambition”.
He added: “I think we’ll see a renewal of Franco-German leadership, which faltered over the last 10 or 15 years.
“It didn’t do very well when Sarkozy was the French president, it struggled a bit under Francois Hollande.
“It’s come back a bit under Macron, but still not being that prominent.”
“And that matters for the dynamism of Europe, because it will push other European countries to support what the Germans and the French want.”
However, he continued that with the number of countries which are member states of the EU, the other nations are “not always going to accept what they want”.
Just days after Mr Scholz was sworn in as German Chancellor, he travelled to Paris to meet Mr Macron for the first time as two leaders of powerful EU states.
Mr Macron praised a “convergence of views” with Mr Scholz, even calling the new Chancellor “dear Olaf” in what looked to be the start of a close relationship between the two nations.
Mr Macron lauded “a desire to have our countries work together, and a firm and determined belief in Europe, which I knew already, which we will need in the months and years ahead”.
Addressing Mr Scholz at a press conference, Mr Macron said: “During the last four years I have worked with Angela Merkel on all these subjects.
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“I know that we will continue together, dear Olaf, this close collaboration”.
Mr Scholz told the media that Germany was committed, as was France, to Europe’s “strategic sovereignty” and collaboration on issues facing the bloc.
Mr Macron had previously asserted France’s ambition for a “Europe that is powerful in the world”, working on the bloc’s influence during France’s stint as president of the Council next year.
Commitment to the EU is something that the new ruling government, dubbed the “traffic light coalition” for the colours of the participating parties, have been clear to emphasise as they move on from Merkel’s reign.
In the coalition treaty, they stressed that Europe’s largest economy has a “special responsibility” towards Europe – although this does not necessarily mean an identical interpretation to that of Merkel.
They have already pushed for adherence to rule of law stipulated by the EU for member states, such as Hungary and Poland.
The new coalition, although veering on the left side of the political spectrum after over a decade and a half of the more conservative Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union, is walking a line of continuity and tempered change.
The coalition will be immediately contending with pressing issues bearing down on the new German leadership, not least continued handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the threat of Russian intervention in Ukraine.
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