Olaf Scholz
Scholz in 2023
Chancellor of Germany
Assumed office
8 December 2021
Vice Chancellor
Preceded byAngela Merkel
Vice Chancellor of Germany
In office
14 March 2018 – 8 December 2021
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded bySigmar Gabriel
Succeeded byRobert Habeck
Minister of Finance
In office
14 March 2018 – 8 December 2021
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byWolfgang Schäuble
Succeeded byChristian Lindner
First Mayor of Hamburg
In office
7 March 2011 – 13 March 2018
Second MayorDorothee Stapelfeldt
Katharina Fegebank
Preceded byChristoph Ahlhaus
Succeeded byPeter Tschentscher
Early political career 2001–⁠2011
Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party in the Bundestag
In office
27 October 2009 – 11 March 2011
Serving with Joachim Poß, Angelica Schwall-Düren, Elke Ferner, Ulrich Kelber, Gernot Erler, Florian Pronold, Dagmar Ziegler, Hubertus Heil, Axel Schäfer
LeaderFrank-Walter Steinmeier
Preceded byLudwig Stiegler
Walter Kolbow
Fritz Rudolf Körper
Klaas Hübner
Christel Humme
Succeeded byChristine Lambrecht
Minister for Labour and Social Affairs
In office
21 November 2007 – 27 October 2009
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byFranz Müntefering
Succeeded byFranz Josef Jung
Chief Whip of the Social Democratic Party in the Bundestag
In office
13 October 2005 – 21 November 2007
LeaderPeter Struck
Preceded byWilhelm Schmidt
Succeeded byThomas Oppermann
General Secretary of the
Social Democratic Party
In office
20 October 2002 – 21 March 2004
LeaderGerhard Schröder
Preceded byFranz Müntefering
Succeeded byKlaus Uwe Benneter
Senator for the Interior of Hamburg
In office
30 May 2001 – 31 October 2001
First MayorOrtwin Runde
Preceded byHartmuth Wrocklage
Succeeded byRonald Schill
Parliamentary constituencies
Member of the Bundestag
for Potsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II
Assumed office
26 October 2021
Preceded byManja Schüle (2019)
Member of the Bundesrat
for Hamburg
In office
7 March 2011 – 13 March 2018
Preceded byChristoph Ahlhaus
Succeeded byPeter Tschentscher
Member of the
Hamburg Parliament
In office
2 March 2015 – 2 March 2015
Preceded byHimself (2011)
Electoral listSocial Democratic Party
In office
7 March 2011 – 7 March 2011
Preceded byMulti-member district
Succeeded byAndrea Rugbarth
Electoral listSocial Democratic Party
Member of the Bundestag
for Hamburg-Altona
In office
17 October 2002 – 11 March 2011
Preceded byHimself (2001)
Succeeded byIngo Egloff
In office
26 October 1998 – 6 June 2001
Preceded byMarliese Dobberthien
Succeeded byHimself (2002)
Deputy Member of the Bundesrat
for Hamburg
In office
30 May 2001[1] – 31 October 2001[2]
Appointed byOrtwin Runde
Preceded byHartmuth Wrocklage
Succeeded byMulti-member district
Personal details
Born (1958-06-14) 14 June 1958 (age 66)
Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, West Germany
Political partySocial Democratic Party (since 1975)
(m. 1998)
Residence(s)Old Market Square, Potsdam
Alma materUniversity of Hamburg
Websiteolaf-scholz.spd.de Edit this at Wikidata

Olaf Scholz (German: [ˈoːlaf ˈʃɔlts] ; born (1958-06-14)14 June 1958) is a German politician who has been the chancellor of Germany since 8 December 2021. A member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), he previously served as Vice Chancellor in the fourth Merkel cabinet and as Federal Minister of Finance from 2018 to 2021. He was also First Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, deputy leader of the SPD from 2009 to 2019, and Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from 2007 to 2009.

Scholz began his career as a lawyer specialising in labour and employment law. He became a member of the SPD in the 1970s and was a member of the Bundestag from 1998 to 2011. Scholz served in the Hamburg Government under First Mayor Ortwin Runde in 2001 and became General Secretary of the SPD in 2002, where he served alongside SPD leader and then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. He became his party's Chief Whip in the Bundestag, later entering the First Merkel Government in 2007 as Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs. After the SPD moved into the opposition following the 2009 election, Scholz returned to lead the SPD in Hamburg. He was then elected Deputy Leader of the SPD. He led his party to victory in the 2011 Hamburg state election and became First Mayor, a position he held until 2018.

After the Social Democratic Party entered the fourth Merkel government in 2018, Scholz was appointed as both Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor of Germany. In 2020, he was nominated as the SPD's candidate for Chancellor of Germany for the 2021 federal election. The party won a plurality of seats in the Bundestag and formed a "traffic light coalition" with Alliance 90/The Greens and the Free Democratic Party. On 8 December 2021, Scholz was elected and sworn in as Chancellor by the Bundestag, succeeding Angela Merkel.

As Chancellor, Scholz has overseen Germany's response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite taking a more restrained and cautious response than many other Western leaders, Scholz oversaw a significant increase in the German defence budget, weapons shipments to Ukraine, and the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Three days after the invasion, Scholz set out the principles of a new German defence policy in his Zeitenwende speech. In September 2022, three of the four Nord Stream pipelines were destroyed. During the Israel–Hamas war, he authorized substantial German military and medical aid to Israel, and denounced the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups.

Early life and education

Scholz was born on 14 June 1958, in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, and grew up in Hamburg's Rahlstedt district.[3] His parents worked in the textile industry.[4] He has two younger brothers, Jens Scholz, an anesthesiologist and CEO of the University Medical Center Schleswig Holstein;[5] and Ingo Scholz, a tech entrepreneur.

Olaf Scholz attended the Bekassinenau elementary school in Oldenfelde, and then switched to the Großlohering elementary school in Großlohe. After graduating from high school in 1977, he began studying law at the University of Hamburg in 1978 as part of a one-stage legal training course.[6] He later found employment as a lawyer specialising in labour and employment law, working at the law firm Zimmermann, Scholz und Partner.[7] Scholz joined the Social Democratic Party at the age of 17.[3]

Scholz's family is traditionally Lutheran, and he was baptized in the Protestant Church in Germany. He holds largely secular political views, and left the Church in adulthood, but has emphasised a need for appreciation of Germany's Christian heritage and culture.[8]

Political career

Early political career

Young socialist, 1975–1989

Scholz at the Young Socialists Congress, 1984

Scholz joined the SPD in 1975 as a student, where he came into contact with the Jusos, the youth organization of the SPD. From 1982 to 1988, he was Deputy Federal Chairman of the Jusos. Scholz was also Vice President of the International Union of Socialist Youth from 1987 to 1989. He supported the Freudenberger Kreis, a Marxist wing of the Jusos' university groups, arguing that society should "overcome the capitalist economy" in one of his publications.[9] In it, Scholz criticized the "aggressive-imperialist NATO", the Federal Republic as the "European stronghold of big business" and the social-liberal coalition, which puts the "bare maintenance of power above any form of substantive dispute".[10] Referring to this period in his life, Scholz has later said that he "made almost all possible mistakes at some point".[9]

On 4 January 1984, Scholz and other Juso leaders attended a meeting in East Germany with Egon Krenz, then secretary of the Central Committee of the SED, and Herbert Häber, member of the Politburo of the SED-Central Committee.[11] In 1987, Scholz crossed the inner-German border again and stood up for disarmament agreements as Juso-Vice at an FDJ peace rally in Wittenberg alongside FDJ head Eberhard Aurich.[12]

Member of the Bundestag, 1998–2001

Scholz was elected to his first political office as a Deputy Member of the Bundestag representing the constituency of Hamburg-Altona in 1998, aged 40.[13] During his tenure, Scholz served on the Committee for Labor and Social Matters. In the committee of inquiry into the visa affair of the Bundestag, he was chairman of the SPD parliamentary group.[14] Scholz resigned his mandate on 6 June 2001, to take office as Senator.[clarification needed] Because his seat was an overhang seat, it was not filled until the 2002 German federal election.[citation needed]

Senator for the Interior of Hamburg, 2001

On 30 May 2001, Scholz succeeded Hartmuth Wrocklage to become Senator for the Interior of Hamburg in the Senate led by Mayor Ortwin Runde. Wrocklage had resigned due to allegations of nepotism. He also succeeded Wrocklage as Deputy Member of the Bundesrat.[citation needed]

During his brief time as Senator, Scholz controversially[clarification needed] approved the involuntary use of emetics to gather evidence from suspected drug dealers.[15] The Hamburg Medical Chamber expressed disapproval of this practice due to potential health risks.[16]

Scholz left office in October 2001, after the defeat of his party at the 2001 Hamburg state election and the election of Ole von Beust as First Mayor. His successor was Ronald Schill, who had won on a Law and order platform, with an emphasis on harsh penalties for drug dealers.[17][18]

Federal and state political career

Member of the Bundestag, 2002–2011

Scholz was elected again to the Bundestag in the 2002 German federal election. From 2002 to 2004, Scholz also served as General Secretary of the SPD; he resigned from that office when party leader and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, facing disaffection within his own party and hampered by persistently low public approval ratings, announced he would step down as Leader of the Social Democratic Party.[19]

Scholz was one of a series of politicians who sparked debate over the German journalistic norm of allowing interviewees to "authorize" and amend quotes before publication. This came after his press team insisted on extensively editing an interview with Die Tageszeitung in 2003.[20][21] Die Tageszeitung editor Bascha Mika condemned the norm as a "betrayal of the claim to a free press", and the newspaper ultimately published the interview with Scholz's answers blacked out.[22][23]

Scholz served as the SPD spokesperson on the inquiry committee investigating the 2005 German Visa Affair. Following the federal election later that year, he served as First Parliamentary Secretary of the SPD Bundestag Group. He also became Chief Whip of the Social Democratic Party. In this capacity, he worked closely with the CDU Chief Whip Norbert Röttgen to manage and defend the grand coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Bundestag.[24] Scholz also served as a member of the Parliamentary Oversight Panel, which provides parliamentary oversight of the German federal intelligence services; the BND, MAD and BfV.[25]

Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, 2007–2009

In 2007, Scholz was appointed to serve as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the first Merkel Government, succeeding Franz Müntefering.[26][27]

Following the 2009 federal election, when the SPD left the Government, Scholz was elected as Deputy Leader of the SPD, replacing Frank-Walter Steinmeier. [citation needed] Between 2009 and 2011, he was also a member of the SPD group's Afghanistan/Pakistan Task Force.[28] In 2010, he participated in the annual Bilderberg Meeting in Sitges, Spain.[29]

First Mayor of Hamburg, 2011–2018

Scholz in March 2011, on the government benches in the Hamburg Parliament, shortly after his election as First Mayor

In 2011, Scholz was the lead SPD candidate at the Hamburg state election, which the SPD won with 48.3% of the votes, taking 62 of 121 seats in the Hamburg Parliament.[30] Scholz resigned as a Member of the Bundestag on 11 March 2011, days after his formal election as First Mayor of Hamburg; Dorothee Stapelfeldt, also a Social Democrat, was appointed his Deputy First Mayor.[31][32][33]

In his capacity as First Mayor, Scholz represented Hamburg and Germany internationally. On 7 June 2011, Scholz attended the state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama in honor of Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.[34] As host of Hamburg's annual St. Matthias' Day banquet for the city's civic and business leaders, he brought several notable guests of honour to the city, including Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister of France, in 2013; David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in 2016; and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, in 2017.[35] From 2015 until 2018, Scholz also served as Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Germany for Cultural Affairs under the Treaty on Franco-German Cooperation.[36]

Scholz and the spouses of the heads of state and government at the G20 in Hamburg, 2017

In 2013, Scholz opposed a public initiative aiming at a complete buyback of energy grids that the city of Hamburg had sold to utilities Vattenfall Europe AG and E.ON decades before; he argued this would overburden the city, whose debt stood at more than 20 billion euros at the time.[37]

Scholz was asked to participate in exploratory talks between the CDU, CSU and SPD parties to form a coalition government following the 2013 federal election.[38] In the subsequent negotiations, he led the SPD delegation in the financial policy working group; his co-chair from the CDU/CSU was Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.[39] Alongside fellow Social Democrats Jörg Asmussen and Thomas Oppermann, Scholz was reported in the media to be a possible successor to Schäuble in the post of Finance Minister at the time; whilst Schäuble remained in post, the talks to form a coalition were ultimately successful.[40]

In a paper compiled in late 2014, Scholz and Schäuble proposed redirecting revenue from the solidarity surcharge on income and corporate tax (Solidaritätszuschlag) to subsidize the federal states' interest payments.[41]

Under Scholz's leadership, the Social Democrats won the 2015 state election in Hamburg, receiving around 47% of the vote.[42] He formed a coalition government with the Green Party, with Green leader Katharina Fegebank being appointed to serve as Deputy First Mayor.[43][44]

Scholz speaking at the Global Citizen Festival 2017 in Hamburg

In 2015, Scholz led Hamburg's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics with an estimated budget of €11.2 billion (US$12.6 billion), competing against Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, and Budapest. In a referendum, the citizens of Hamburg later rejected the city's candidacy, with more than half voting against the project.[45][46] Later that year, Scholz – alongside Minister-President Torsten Albig of Schleswig-Holstein – negotiated a debt-restructuring deal with the European Commission. The deal allowed German regional lender HSH Nordbank to offload €6.2 billion in problematic assets, primarily underperforming ship loans, onto its government majority owners and avoid being shut down, saving around 2,500 jobs.[47]

In 2017, Scholz was criticised for his handling of riots that took place during the G20 summit in Hamburg.[7]

In late 2021, Scholz was widely criticised for his handling of the CumEx tax fraud at M. M. Warburg & Co. when he was the mayor of Hamburg.[48][49]

Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance, 2018–2021

Scholz (SPD), Angela Merkel (CDU) and Horst Seehofer (CSU) presenting the 2018 coalition agreement for Germany's fourth Merkel cabinet

After a lengthy period of inter-party negotiations following the 2017 federal election, during which the CDU, CSU and SPD agreed to continue in coalition, Scholz was appointed Federal Minister of Finance. Scholz was sworn in alongside the rest of the fourth Merkel cabinet on 14 March 2018, also taking the role of Vice Chancellor of Germany under Angela Merkel.[50] Within his first months in office, Scholz became one of Germany's most popular politicians, reaching an approval rating of 50%.[51]

In 2019, Scholz ran for leader of the SPD, but lost to Norbert Walter-Borjans.[52]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany, Scholz drafted a series of financial rescue packages for the country's economy, including a €130 billion stimulus package in June 2020. The stimulus package included support for businesses and freelancers as well as a decision to keep factories open. This is often credited as having prevented mass layoffs, and the effects of the COVID-19 financial crisis on the German economy were initially relatively low.[53][54] Scholz also oversaw the allocation of funding received from Next Generation EU, the European Union's €750 billion COVID-19 recovery fund. 90% of the €28 billion available to Germany was invested into climate protection and digitization.[55]

At the G7 summit in June 2021, the G7 agreed on a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%, which had been proposed by Scholz.[56][57] Scholz is credited as having convinced President of the U.S. Joe Biden to agree to the proposal, which his predecessor Donald Trump had been opposed to.[58] Also in June 2021, Scholz oversaw the Federal Central Tax Office's purchase of information regarding German citizens using Dubai for tax avoidance and evasion.[59]

Scholz was criticized in the context of the Wirecard scandal; serious misconduct by the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), which is under the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Finance, is alleged to have contributed to the longevity of the fraudulent business.[60][61] During Scholz's time in office, the Ministry of Finance was one of the subjects of parliamentary inquiry into the scandal, but Scholz has denied any personal responsibility.[62][63] Having vowed to strengthen financial market supervision, he replaced BaFin president Felix Hufeld.[64][65]

Political views in the 2010s

Within the SPD, Scholz is widely viewed as forming part of the moderate wing of the party.[7] Because of his flat enunciation and mechanical-sounding choice of words in press conferences and interviews, Scholz has been nicknamed "the Scholzomat" by some media outlets. In 2013, he said that he found the nickname "very appropriate".[66][67] In January 2019, Scholz stated that he sees China primarily as an economic partner.[68] He tried to persuade Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that China should be more open to German firms,[69] and he supported the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between the EU and China.[70] In September 2022, he condemned the treatment of ethnic Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang.[71]

In October 2019, Scholz condemned the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish-controlled northeastern areas of Syria, otherwise known as Rojava.[72]

Economic and financial policy

Scholz and US Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin in 2018

Scholz has been campaigning for a financial transaction tax for several years. Experts have criticized parts of this plan, arguing that it would disproportionately affect small shareholders.[73][74][75][76] In December 2019, Scholz pushed for the introduction of this tax at European Union level. According to a draft legislation, share purchases should be taxed when they involve shares in companies with a market capitalization over 1 billion.[77] Journalist Hermann-Josef Tenhagen criticized this version of the transaction tax on the basis that it would disproportionately affect lower-income individuals.[78] A report by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy commissioned by the Federal Government in 2020 certified the same deficiencies in the tax concept that Tenhagen had already pointed out.[79]

During his tenure as minister of finance, Scholz prioritized not taking on new government debt and limiting public spending.[51] In 2018, he suggested the creation of an EU-wide unemployment insurance system to make the Eurozone more resilient to future economic shocks.[80]

Environment and climate policy

In September 2019, Scholz negotiated the climate package in a key role for the SPD. To this he said: "What we have presented is a great achievement", whereas climate scientists almost unanimously criticized the result as insufficient.[81][82][83][84][85]

In August 2020, Scholz held a phone call with US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, discussing a lift of US sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. In exchange, Scholz offered 1 billion euros in subsidies to liquid gas terminals in northern Germany for US liquid gas imports.[86][87][88] The move sparked controversy with regards to the SPD's stance towards renewable energy.[89][90]

The revised Climate Protection Act introduced by Olaf Scholz's cabinet as Mayor of Hamburg provides for a 65% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, an 88% reduction by 2040 and climate neutrality by 2045.[91]

Scholz has advocated for the expansion of renewable energy capacities to replace fossil fuels.[92] In May 2021, Scholz proposed the establishment of an international climate club, which should serve to develop common minimum standards for climate policy measures and a coordinated approach. In addition, uniform rules for the carbon accounting of goods should apply among members.[93]

As part of the coalition agreement that led to Scholz becoming chancellor, the Social Democrats, Free Democrats, and Green party agreed to accelerate Germany's phaseout of coal to the year 2030, in line with the target set by the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The country's previous target had been to end the use of coal by 2038. In addition, the agreement set a phaseout of power generation from natural gas by 2040. The agreement also included provisions for the prohibition on natural gas heating in new buildings and replacement of natural gas systems in existing buildings. An end to the sale of combustion vehicles would come in 2035, in line with the target set by the European Commission.[94]

Relationship with the United States

In December 2019, Scholz criticized US sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, saying: "Such sanctions are a serious interference in the internal affairs of Germany and Europe and their sovereignty."[95]

Scholz has expressed support for a longstanding agreement that allows American tactical nuclear weapons to be stored and maintained on American bases within Germany.[96][97]

Candidate for party co-leadership, 2019

Main article: 2019 Social Democratic Party of Germany leadership election

In June 2019, Scholz initially ruled out a candidacy for the party co-leadership following the resignation of Andrea Nahles. He explained that a simultaneous activity as Federal Minister of Finance and party leader was "not possible in terms of time".[98][99][100] However, in August, Scholz announced his intention to run for party chairmanship with Klara Geywitz.[101][102] He said that many of his preferred candidates had not run for office, expressing a sense of "responsibility".[103] Of the six candidate duos standing for election, the Geywitz-Scholz due received the most votes in the first round of the membership elections on 26 October 2019, with 22.7%. They qualified for the runoff election with the second-placed team Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, which had received 21.0% of the vote.[104]

On 30 November 2019, it was announced that Esken and Walter-Borjans had received 53.1% of the vote in the runoff election, with Geywitz and Scholz only receiving 45.3%.[105] This was seen as an upset victory for the left-wing of the SPD, including skeptics of the grand coalition with the CDU. Esken and Walter-Borjans were little-known to the public at large, Esken being a backbencher in the Bundestag and Walter-Borjans being the former Minister of Finance of North Rhine-Westphalia from 2010 to 2017. Scholz on the other hand had the backing of much of the party establishment.[citation needed]

Chancellor candidate, 2021

See also: 2021 German federal election

Scholz at an election campaign event

On 10 August 2020, SPD party leadership agreed that it would nominate Scholz to be the party's candidate for Chancellor of Germany at the 2021 federal election.[106] Scholz is usually grouped with the moderate wing of the SPD,[107] and his nomination was seen by Die Tageszeitung as marking a decline of the party's left.[108]

Scholz led the SPD to a narrow victory in the election, with the party receiving 25.8% of the second votes and 206 seats in the Bundestag.[109] Following this victory, Scholz was widely considered to be the most likely next Chancellor of Germany in a traffic light coalition with The Greens and the Free Democratic Party.[110]

On 24 November, the SPD, Green and FDP reached a coalition agreement, naming Scholz as the new German chancellor.[111]

Chancellor of Germany, 2021–present

Main article: Scholz cabinet

Scholz and Finnish Prime Minister Marin in 2022
Scholz meets President Biden in March 2023.

Scholz was elected Chancellor by the Bundestag on 8 December 2021, with 395 votes in favour and 303 against.[112] His new government was appointed on the same day by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.[113] At 63 years, 177 days of age, Scholz is the oldest person to become Chancellor of Germany since Ludwig Erhard, who was 66 years, 255 days old when he assumed office on 17 October 1963.

In December 2021, Scholz travelled to Warsaw for talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, where they discussed the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would bring Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany and bypass Poland, and Poland's dispute with the European Union over the primacy of EU law. Scholz backed Poland's efforts to stop the flow of migrants seeking entry from Belarus.[114]

Scholz extended into 2022 the suspension of the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.[115] The decision was made to "no longer approve any export sales to countries as long as they are directly involved" in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[116] In September 2022, Scholz visited the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, seeking to deepen ties with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and find alternative sources of energy.[117] Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received Scholz in Jeddah.[118] Scholz's government approved new arms export deals to Saudi Arabia, despite a ban imposed as a result of the Saudi war in Yemen and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.[119]

Scholz with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brasília, Brazil on 30 January 2023

Scholz called the US "Europe's closest and most important partner". Upon assuming the chancellorship in December 2021, he stated he would soon be meeting with President Joe Biden, saying: "It is now clear what binds us together."[97]

On 22 February 2022, Scholz announced that Germany would be halting its approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to Russia's recognition of two self-declared separatist republics within Ukraine.[120] Scholz spoke against allowing the EU to cut Russia off from the SWIFT global interbank payment system.[121]

In an emergency meeting of the Bundestag on 27 February, Scholz made the Zeitenwende speech, announcing a complete reversal of German military and foreign policy, including the commencement of weapons shipments to Ukraine and a 100 billion euro increase in Germany's defense budget.[122] One reporter called it a path to "an emergency military modernisation, defence spending, energy independence from Russia, lethal assistance for Ukraine and EU financing for weaponry". However, in a press conference on 19 April Scholz spoke about slowing Germany's provision of weaponry to Ukraine, which was seen as reducing the scale of the policy change.[123]

In June 2022, Scholz said that his government remains committed to phasing out nuclear power despite rising energy prices and Germany's dependence on energy imports from Russia.[124] Former Chancellor Angela Merkel committed Germany to a nuclear power phase-out after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.[125]

In August 2022, Scholz expressed disagreement with the words of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to "apartheid" in South Africa.[126]

Scholz with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India on 25 February 2023

Energy-intensive German industry and German exporters were hit particularly hard by the 2021–present global energy crisis.[127][128] Scholz said: "Of course we knew, and we know, that our solidarity with Ukraine will have consequences."[129] On 29 September 2022, Germany presented a €200 billion plan to support industry and households.[130]

On 14 March 2023, Scholz met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Berlin. They discussed the export of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Germany and the European Union. Scholz said that "Azerbaijan is becoming an increasingly important partner for both Germany and the European Union" and stated that Germany does not recognize the Armenian separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent republic.[131]

In early May 2023, Scholz met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa to normalize relations between Germany and Ethiopia, which had been strained by the Tigray War between the Ethiopian government and rebels in Tigray.[132]

In May 2023, Scholz called on all parties involved to resolve the Cyprus dispute, which escalated after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the subsequent occupation of the northern part of the island.[133]

Scholz with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv, 17 October 2023

Scholz condemned Hamas' actions during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, expressed his support to Israel, and began supporting the nation with military and medical aid.[134][135][136] He criticized the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that "their silence is shameful."[137] On 17 October 2023, Scholz arrived in Israel and on the same day warned Iran and Hezbollah not to get involved in the war between Israel and Hamas. He said that "Germany and Israel are united by the fact that they are democratic constitutional states. Our actions are based on law and order, even in extreme situations."[138] On 12 November 2023, Scholz rejected calls for "an immediate ceasefire or long pause" in Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza, saying it would "mean ultimately that Israel leaves Hamas the possibility of recovering and obtaining new missiles".[139]

In March 2024, Scholz confronted EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell over his months-long criticism of Israel, saying Borrell did not speak for Germany.[140] On 28 May 2024, Scholz said that his government has no plans to officially recognise a Palestinian state.[141]

COVID-19 vaccine mandate

During his campaign in the 2021 election, Scholz opposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Since late November 2021, he has expressed support for mandatory vaccination for adults, scheduled to be voted during the first months of 2022 by the federal parliament, and for the closure of non-essential retail stores to unvaccinated adults, based on the 2G-Regel, decreed by state governments in December 2021.[142][143][144][145][146]

On 13 January 2022, Scholz told lawmakers in the Bundestag that Germany should make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all adults.[147] Later that month, he warned that the coronavirus would not "miraculously" disappear, and said Germany would not be able to get out of the pandemic without compulsory vaccinations.[148] The opposition Christian Democratic Union criticized the government for not taking a firm decision on a vaccine mandate. The far-right Alternative for Germany party wants Scholz's government to ban vaccine mandates.[149]

Relationship with Poland

Main article: Germany–Poland relations

Scholz and Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki in 2021

In December 2021, Scholz rejected the Polish government's claim for further World War II reparations.[150] As a consequence of Nazi German aggression in World War II, Poland lost about a fifth of its population and much of its industry and infrastructure was destroyed. As a compensation Poland was awarded large parts of Eastern Germany at the Potsdam Conference 1945.[151][152] According to the German government, there is no legal basis for further compensation payments.[153] In a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Scholz said "We have concluded treaties that are valid and have settled the past issues and the compensation".[153] Scholz also pointed out that Germany "continues to be willing to pay very, very high contributions to the EU budget", from which Poland has benefited considerably since its accession to the EU.[153]

Russian invasion of Ukraine

Scholz and Putin in Moscow on 15 February 2022

Main article: Russian invasion of Ukraine

In January 2022, The New York Times reported intensifying concerns from the US and other NATO allies about the Scholz government's "evident hesitation to take forceful measures" against Russia in the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis.[154]

The Scholz government initially refused to send weapons to Ukraine, citing existing German policy and financial support for the Eastern European country.[155] As late as 15 February, Scholz was quoted by TASS as saying "the way out of the crisis in Ukraine is to implement the Steinmeier formula", a mechanism of granting a special status to Donbass.[156] On 26 February, following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Scholz reversed his decision and pledged a supply of anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles to Ukraine.[157]

Before the 24 February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Scholz rejected Ukraine's demands for weapons deliveries on 6 February, saying Germany "has for many years taken the clear stance that we do not deliver to crisis regions".[158] The Russian invasion drastically changed German policy with regard to defense spending, aiding Ukraine and the nation's energy security.

Scholz greatly increased German defense expenditure. Three days after the invasion started, he announced in the Zeitenwende speech the creation of a one-off 100 billion euro fund for the Bundeswehr.[159] This represents a major shift in German foreign policy, as Germany had long refused to meet the required spending of 2% of its GDP on defense, as is required by NATO.[160] In addition to increasing defense spending for his own country, in an address to Germany's parliament on 23 March, Scholz emphasized support for aiding Ukraine in its resistance to Russian invasion.[161]

Scholz and Macron visit Kyiv on 16 June 2022

With regard to supporting Ukraine and taking action against Russia, Scholz was trailing behind others. On 26 February 2022, he was the last of several EU leaders to continue opposition against kicking Russia out of the SWIFT international payment system.[162] However, Germany did send some effective weapons to Ukraine. By 17 March about 2,000 portable missile weapons against tanks and aircraft had been sent.[163] In his 23 March speech, Scholz claimed that Germany would "try everything we can until peace prevails again on our continent" including taking hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees across German borders.[161] Like most other NATO leaders, he declined to impose a no-fly zone, as that would probably draw NATO into a direct military conflict with Russia.[161]

Apart from increasing defense spending and aiding Ukraine, the invasion also helped the German government to admit the dangers of relying on Russian gas. By 3 March 2022, Scholz had announced plans to build two new LNG terminals.[164] Economy minister Habeck then visited Norway and on 19 March Qatar, one of the world's largest exporters of liquefied natural gas.[165][166] Here he signed a long term agreement about importing Qatari gas.[167] Amid pressure to prohibit Russian gas imports across Europe, Scholz still refused to end German imports of Russian gas in the first days of April.[168] A few days later, he said Germany was working on ending the import of Russian energy.[169] He opposed a reversal of Germany's scheduled end to nuclear power, saying the technical challenges were too great.[170]

Scholz at the NATO Summit in Vilnius on 12 July 2023

In early April 2022 news of the Bucha massacre shocked public opinion in Europe. On 6 April Guy Verhofstadt got a lot of attention with a passionate speech about Ukraine before the European parliament. He ended it by accusing the German government of "dragging its feet" with regard to taking action against Russia.[171] That same month, Germany policy changed and the chancellor avowed that Germany would provide Ukraine with more than 1 billion euro to spend on military resources.[172] Scholz rejected a plan made by Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to deliver 100 Marder Infantry fighting vehicles from German stocks to Ukraine.[173][174]

From May 2022, the aid to Ukraine became increasingly significant. The rhetoric of the chancellor also began to change. On 9 May 2022, Scholz said that Russians and Ukrainians once fought together during World War II against Nazi Germany's "murderous National Socialist regime", but now "Putin wants to overthrow Ukraine and destroy its culture and identity... [and] even regards his barbaric war of aggression as being on a par with the fight against National Socialism. That is a falsification of history and a disgraceful distortion."[175] On 16 June 2022, Scholz visited the Ukrainian Capital, Kyiv, alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They talked about various issues such as the war in Ukraine and Ukraine's membership into the EU.[176][177] This comes as a reverse of his previous stance to not visit Ukraine, after Zelensky rebuked the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier over his contribution to stronger Moscow-Berlin ties.[178][179]

International trips by Olaf Scholz
  1 visit
  2 visits
  3 to 7 visits
  8 to 10 visits
  11 and more visits
  No known visits

By 1 September 2022 the actual volume of German arms deliveries to Ukraine was only exceeded by that of deliveries by the United States and the United Kingdom.[180] The verdict was that, "based on these statistics, Berlin had ultimately positioned itself as a reliable partner of Ukraine."[180] However, it "could also be argued that Berlin's communication to affirm its Ukraine stance and explain its foreign policy goals had been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster".[180] By then, the January 2023 debate about supplying tanks to Ukraine was still to come.

Other activities

International organizations

Corporate boards


Personal life

Olaf Scholz is married to fellow SPD politician Britta Ernst. The couple lived in Hamburg's Altona district before moving to Potsdam in 2018.[192]

Scholz was raised in the Protestant Church in Germany and later left it.[193] At his inauguration as chancellor in 2021, Scholz took the oath of office without a reference to God (the second chancellor to do so after Gerhard Schröder). He is the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany who is not a member of a church.[194]

On 4 September 2023, Scholz announced that he would be wearing an eyepatch following a jogging accident.[195][196][197]

See also


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Party political offices Preceded byFranz Müntefering General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party 2002–2004 Succeeded byKlaus Uwe Benneter Preceded byFrank-Walter Steinmeier Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party 2009–2019 Succeeded byHubertus Heil Political offices Preceded byFranz Müntefering Minister of Labour and Social Affairs 2007–2009 Succeeded byFranz Josef Jung Preceded byChristoph Ahlhaus First Mayor of Hamburg 2011–2018 Succeeded byPeter Tschentscher Preceded bySigmar Gabriel Vice-Chancellor of Germany 2018–2021 Succeeded byRobert Habeck Preceded byWolfgang Schäuble Minister of Finance 2018–2021 Succeeded byChristian Lindner Preceded byAngela Merkel Chancellor of Germany 2021–present Incumbent Diplomatic posts Preceded byBoris Johnson Chair of the Group of Seven 2022 Succeeded byFumio Kishida Order of precedence Preceded byBärbel Basas President of the Bundestag Order of precedence of GermanyChancellor Succeeded byManuela Schwesigas President of the Bundesrat