Olaf Scholz (pronounced [ˈoːlaf ˈʃɔlts] (About this soundlisten)) (born (1958-06-14)14 June 1958) is a German politician who has served as vice-chancellor to Angela Merkel and as minister of Finance since March 2018. He previously served as the First Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and was the deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 2009 to 2019. In the 2021 German federal election, from which the SPD emerged as the strongest parliamentary party, Scholz was his party's candidate for chancellor. The SPD, Alliance 90/The Greens and the FDP agreed to form a coalition government (traffic light coalition) on 24 November 2021. The Bundestag is expected to elect Scholz as chancellor between 6 and 8 December 2021.[1][2]

Olaf Scholz
Olaf Scholz 2021 cropped.jpg
Scholz in September 2021
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
Assumed office
14 March 2018
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded bySigmar Gabriel
Federal Minister of Finance
Assumed office
14 March 2018
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byWolfgang Schäuble
First Mayor of Hamburg
In office
7 March 2011 – 13 March 2018
Second MayorDorothee Stapelfeldt
Katharina Fegebank
Preceded byChristoph Ahlhaus
Succeeded byPeter Tschentscher
Federal Minister of 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 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
Member of the German Bundestag
Assumed office
26 October 2021
Preceded byManja Schüle (2019)
ConstituencyPotsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II
In office
17 October 2002 – 11 March 2011
Preceded byHimself (2001)
Succeeded byIngo Egloff
ConstituencyHamburg Altona
In office
26 October 1998 – 6 June 2001
Preceded byMarliese Dobberthien
Succeeded byHimself (2002)
ConstituencyHamburg Altona
Member of the Hamburg Parliament
In office
2 March 2015 – 2 March 2015
Preceded byHimself (2011)
ConstituencySocial Democratic list
In office
7 March 2011 – 7 March 2011
Preceded bymulti-member district
Succeeded byAndrea Rugbarth
ConstituencySocial Democratic list
Personal details
Born (1958-06-14) 14 June 1958 (age 63)
Osnabrück, West Germany
Political partySocial Democratic Party
Spouse(s)
Britta Ernst
(m. 1998)
ResidenceOld Market Square, Potsdam
Alma materUniversity of Hamburg
Occupation
  • Politician
  • lawyer
  • cooperative syndic
Signature
WebsiteOfficial website

Scholz is a lawyer and was called to the bar in 1985, specialising in labour and employment law.[3] He became a member of the SPD in the 1970s and was a member of the Bundestag from 1998 to 2011. He served in the Hamburg Government under First Mayor Ortwin Runde in 2001, before his election as General Secretary of the SPD in 2002, serving alongside the SPD leader and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. After stepping down as General Secretary in 2004, he became his party's Chief Whip in the Bundestag, later entering the First Merkel Government in 2007 as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. After the SPD left the Government following the 2009 election, Scholz returned to lead the SPD in Hamburg, and was also elected Deputy Leader of the SPD. He led his party to victory in the 2011 Hamburg state election, and became First Mayor, holding that position until 2018.

After the SPD entered the Fourth Merkel Government in 2018, Scholz was appointed as both Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor of Germany. In 2019, Scholz ran on a joint ticket with former Brandenburg state representative Klara Geywitz for the newly introduced dual leadership of the SPD. Despite winning the most votes in the first round, the pair lost with 45% of the vote in the ensuing run-off to the winners Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken.[4] He subsequently stepped down from his position as Deputy Leader.[5] In 2020, Scholz was nominated as the SPD's candidate for Chancellor of Germany at the 2021 federal election.[6]

Early life and education

Scholz was born on 14 June 1958, in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, but grew up Hamburg's Rahlstedt district.[7] His parents worked in the textile industry.[8] He has two younger brothers, Jens Scholz, an anesthesiologist and CEO of the University Medical Center Schleswig Holstein;[9] and Ingo Scholz, a tech entrepreneur. Olaf Scholz attended the Bekassinenau elementary school in Oldenfelde but 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.[10] He later found employment as a lawyer specialising in labour and employment law.[3] Scholz joined the Social Democratic Party at the age of 17.[7]

Scholz' family is traditionally Lutheran and he was baptized in the Evangelical Church in Germany; he holds largely secular views and left the Church in adulthood, but has called for appreciation of the country's Christian heritage and culture.[11]

Political career

Early political career

Young socialist, 1975–1989

 
Scholz on the Young Socialists Congress, 1984

Scholz joined the SPD in 1975 as a student, where he got involved with the Jusos, the youth organization of the SPD. From 1982 to 1988, he was Deputy Federal Juso Chairman, and from 1987 to 1989 also Vice President of the International Union of Socialist Youth. He supported the Freudenberger Kreis, the Marxist wing of the Juso university groups, and the magazine spw and promoted "overcoming the capitalist economy" in articles.[citation needed] 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".[12] On 4 January 1984, Scholz and other Juso leaders met in the GDR with Egon Krenz, the secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and member of the Politburo of the SED-Central Committee, Herbert Häber. 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.[13]

Member of the German Bundestag, 1998–2001

A former vice president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, Scholz was first elected to represent Hamburg Altona in the Bundestag in 1998, aged 40. In the committee of inquiry into the visa affair of the Bundestag, he was chairman of the SPD parliamentary group. On 6 June 2001 he resigned from his seat to take up the vacant position of Senator for the Interior of Hamburg under First Mayor Ortwin Runde.

Senator for the Interior of Hamburg, 2001

On 30 May 2001, Scholz succeeded the resigned Interior Senator Hartmuth Wrocklage in the Senate of Hamburg led by Mayor Ortwin Runde. During his brief time as Senator, he controversially approved the forced use of laxatives to gather evidence from suspected drug dealers. The Hamburg Medical Chamber expressed disapproval of this practice due to potential health risks.[14] He left office in October 2001, after the defeat of his party at the 2001 Hamburg state election and the with the election of Ole von Beust as First Mayor. His successor was Ronald Schill.

Member of the German 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.[15]

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, after his press team insisted on heavily rewriting an interview with Die Tageszeitung in 2003.[16][17] Editor Bascha Mika condemned the behavior as a "betrayal of the claim to a free press" and the newspaper ultimately published the interview with Scholz's answers blacked out.

Scholz served as the SPD spokesperson on the inquiry committee investigating the German Visa Affair in 2005. Following the federal election later that year, he served as First Parliamentary Secretary of the SPD Bundestag Group, becoming 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.[18] He also served as a member of the Parliamentary Oversight Panel, which provides parliamentary oversight of the German intelligence services; the BND, MAD and BfV. In addition, he was a member of the parliamentary body in charge of appointing judges to the Highest Courts of Justice, namely the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG), the Federal Fiscal Court (BFH), the Federal Labour Court (BAG), and the Federal Social Court (BSG).

Scholz resigned from with his Bundestag mandate on 10 March 2011, after he had been elected as First Mayor of Hamburg three days earlier.[19]

Federal and state political career

Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, 2007–2009

In 2007, Scholz joined the Merkel Government, succeeding Franz Müntefering as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.[20][21]

Following the 2009 federal election, when the SPD left the Government, Scholz was elected as Deputy Leader of the SPD, replacing Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Between 2009 and 2011, he was also a member of the SPD group's Afghanistan/Pakistan Task Force.[22] In 2010, he participated in the annual Bilderberg Meeting in Sitges, Spain.[23]

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.[24] 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.

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.[25] As host of Hamburg's annual St. Matthias' Day banquet for the city's civic and business leaders, he has invited several high-ranking guests of honour to the city, including Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of France (2013), Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom (2016), and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (2017).[26] From 2015 until 2018, he also served as Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Germany for Cultural Affairs under the Treaty on Franco-German Cooperation.[27]

 
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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

In a paper compiled in late 2014, Scholz and Schäuble proposed redirecting revenue from the so-called solidarity surcharge on income and corporate tax (Solidaritätszuschlag) to subsidize the federal states’ interest payments.[32]

Under Scholz's leadership, the Social Democrats won the 2015 state election in Hamburg, receiving around 47 per cent of the vote.[33] His coalition government with the Green Party – with Green leader Katharina Fegebank serving as Deputy First Mayor – was sworn in on 15 April 2015.

 
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 euros ($12.6 billion), competing against Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, and Budapest; the citizens of Hamburg, however, later rejected the city's candidacy in a referendum, with more than half voting against the project.[34][35] Later that year, Scholz – alongside Minister-President Torsten Albig of Schleswig-Holstein – negotiated a debt-restructuring deal with the European Commission that allowed the German regional lender HSH Nordbank to offload 6.2 billion euros in troubled assets – mainly non-performing ship loans – onto its government majority owners and avoid being shut down, saving around 2,500 jobs.[36]

In 2017, Scholz received criticism over his handling of riots that took place during the G20 summit in Hamburg.[3]

Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance, 2018–present

After a lengthy period of government formation following the 2017 federal election, during which the CDU, CSU and SPD agreed to continue in coalition, Scholz was accepted by all parties as Federal Minister of Finance. Scholz was sworn in alongside the rest of the Government on 14 March 2018, also taking the role of Vice Chancellor of Germany under Angela Merkel.[37] Within his first months in office, Scholz became one of Germany's most popular politicians, reaching an approval rating of 50 percent.[38]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany, Scholz drafted a series of unprecedented rescue packages for the country's economy, including a 130 billion euro stimulus package in June 2020, which thanks to generous lifelines for businesses and freelancers, as well as a decision to keep factories open, avoided mass layoffs and weathered the crisis better than neighbours such as Italy and France.[39][40] Scholz also oversaw the implementation of the Next Generation EU, the EU's 750 billion euro recovery fund to support member states hit by the pandemic, including the decision to spend 90% of the 28 billion euros for Germany on climate protection and digitalization.[41]

With France, Scholz drove efforts to introduce a global corporate minimum tax and new tax rules for tech giants.[42][43]

At the G7 summit in June 2021, the G7 agreed on a worldwide minimum tax proposed by Scholz of at least 15 percent for multinational companies. The main reason why all G7 member states were in favour was that Scholz was able to convince US President Joe Biden, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, of the minimum taxation.[44] Also in June 2021, Scholz had the Federal Central Tax Office purchase information about potential tax evaders from Dubai. It is data from millions of German taxpayers and contains information on assets hidden from the tax authorities in Dubai. The data should serve to uncover cross-border tax offenses on a significant scale.[45]

Scholz is criticized in the context of the bankruptcy of the payment service provider Wirecard, as there have been serious misconduct by the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin).[46] Critics complain that the Federal Ministry of Finance is responsible for monitoring BaFin.[47] During Scholz's time in office, the Ministry of Finance was one of the subjects of parliamentary inquiry into the so-called Wirecard scandal, in the process of which Scholz denied any responsibility[48][49] but replaced regulator BaFin's president Felix Hufeld and vowed to strengthen financial market supervision.[50][51]

Chancellor candidate, 2021

 
Scholz at an election campaign event

On 10 August 2020, the SPD party executive agreed that it would nominate Scholz to be the party's candidate for Chancellor of Germany at the 2021 federal election.[6] Scholz belongs to the centrist wing of the SPD,[52] and his nomination was seen by Die Tageszeitung as marking the decline of the party's left.[53] Scholz led the SPD to a narrow victory in the election, winning 25.8% of the vote and 206 seats in the Bundestag.[54] Following this victory, he was widely considered to be the most likely next Chancellor of Germany in a so-called traffic light coalition with The Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP).[55] It was announced on 24 November, that the SPD, Green and FDP had reached a coalition agreement, with Scholz as the new German chancellor. A vote to elect the new government has yet to be scheduled; it is predicted to take place sometime around St. Nicholas Day on 6 December.[56]

Political views

Within the SPD, Scholz is widely viewed as hailing from the moderate wing of the party.[3] Because of his automated and mechanical-sounding choice of words in press conferences and interviews, Scholz was nicknamed as “the Scholzomat” by the media. In 2013 he said that he found the attribution "very appropriate".[57][58]

After the 2017 federal election, Scholz was publicly critical of party leader Martin Schulz’s strategy and messaging, releasing a paper titled "No excuses! Answer new questions for the future! Clear principles!" With his proposals for reforming the party, he was widely interpreted to position himself as a potential challenger or successor to Schulz within the SPD. In the weeks after his party first started weighing a return to government, Scholz urged compromise and was one of the SPD members more inclined toward another grand coalition.[59]

Economic and financial policy

Scholz has been campaigning for a financial transaction tax for several years. Experts criticized parts of his plans because they believed that it would primarily affect small shareholders.[60][61][62][63] In December 2019, he pushed the introduction of this tax at EU level. According to the draft, share purchases should be taxed when it comes to shares in companies that are worth at least one billion euros.[64] Journalist Hermann-Josef Tenhagen criticized this version of the transaction tax because the underlying idea of taxing the wealthy more heavily was in fact turned into the opposite.[65] 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.[66]

Since taking office as minister of finance, Scholz has been committed to a continued goal of no new debt and limited public spending.[38] In 2018, he suggested the creation of a EU-wide unemployment insurance system to make the Eurozone more resilient to future economic shocks. He also wants to introduce a financial transaction tax.[67]

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.[68][69][70][71][72]

In 2020, Scholz proposed to the US government to promote liquid gas terminals in northern Germany if, in return, resistance to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be abandoned.[73] The revised Climate Protection Act introduced by Olaf Scholz' cabinet as Mayor of Hamburg provides for a 65 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, an 88 percent reduction by 2040 and climate neutrality by 2045.[74]

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.[75]

Other activities

International organizations

Corporate boards

  • KfW, ex-officio member of the Board of Supervisory Directors (since 2018)[81]
  • RAG-Stiftung, ex-officio member of the board of trustees (since 2018)
  • HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, ex-officio chairman of the supervisory board (–2018)
  • Hamburger Marketing Gesellschaft mbH (HMG GmbH), ex-officio chairman of the supervisory board (–2018)

Non-profits

  • Stiftung Lebendige Stadt, member of the board of trustees (since 2009)
  • Deutsche Nationalstiftung, member of the Senate[82]
  • Deutsches Museum, member of the board of trustees
  • Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), member[83]
  • Hamburg Leuchtfeuer, member of the board of trustees
  • Herbert and Elsbeth Weichmann Foundation, member of the board of trustees
  • Übersee-Club, member of the board of trustees
  • ZDF, member of the board of directors
  • German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), chairman of the Task Force on International Aviation Policy[84]
  • Food, Beverages and Catering Union (NGG), member
  • ZDF, member of the Television Board (2002–2010)
  • Policy Network, member of the board (2002–2007)

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.[85] Scholz was raised in the mainstream Protestant Evangelical Church in Germany, but he later left it and his current religious beliefs are not known.[86]

References

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External links

  Media related to Olaf Scholz at Wikimedia Commons

Party political offices
Preceded by General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party
2002–2004
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party
2009–2019
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
2007–2009
Succeeded by
Preceded by First Mayor of Hamburg
2011–2018
Succeeded by
Preceded by Vice-Chancellor of Germany
2018–present
Incumbent
Preceded by Minister of Finance
2018–present