by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 25
November 2021
Explainer
07:00

Germany’s new Government surrenders to identity politics

Olaf Scholz's cabinet has laid out an extremely progressive agenda
by Katja Hoyer
Olaf Scholz, second left, with Christian Lindner, left, Annalena Baerbock, second right, and Robert Habeck

Habemus chancellor! There is white smoke over Berlin as the new German government concluded its coalition talks and announced its agenda for the next four years. If you expected a slight tilt to the Left from Merkelism, think again: Germany is in for a radical overhaul.

In the press conference yesterday afternoon, the four party leaders went through the motions of praising each others’ conduct during coalition talks in an effort to allay fears that Germany’s first three-party coalition will lead to instability and division. They stressed that they had agreed on basic principles such as the raising of minimum wage, building new and affordable homes and combating climate change.

But even a cursory glance at the 178 page coalition treaty reveals that their agreement went further than the basics. Much further. Baerbock spoke of a ‘paradigm shift’ in German politics rather than just ‘finding the lowest common denominator’ and it seems the three progressive parties have indeed found a lot of common ground after all.

On a social level, the coalition treaty places huge emphasis on younger people. The voting age will be lowered to 16 not only for European elections but also for general polling. This is hardly surprising as both the Greens and the Liberals draw a significant proportion of their support from younger demographics, but it would require an amendment of the constitution, a much more radical change than the half-sentence dedicated to it suggests.

In terms of migration too, German society is in for a paradigm shift. The coalition treaty speaks of Germany as an ‘immigration society’ and wants to change the law accordingly. It promises to make the acquisition of German citizenship easier, increase the immigration of workers and enshrine the representation of diversity in law (without mentioning specifically what this will look like).

In addition, existing legislation regarding trans people will be replaced with a ‘self-declaration law’, which will allow everyone to change their gender by declaration alone. Gender reassignment surgery will be fully funded through the public health system. ‘Rainbow families’ will receive more support ‘especially in middle-size businesses and in the civil service’ but also in education, which is traditionally a devolved matter for the individual states.

Foreign policy and security doesn’t start until page 143 but it also contains some radical decisions. NATO remains an ‘indispensable’ part of German policy in which the coalition ‘will invest accordingly’ but equally the UN is described as ‘the most important institution.’ ‘While nuclear weapons remain part of NATO’s strategic concept’, Germany will support this but in the long run, the aim is ‘a Germany free of nuclear weapons’.

In terms of energy, Germany will bank largely on renewables in the hope that the technology will develop accordingly. The nuclear power plants will be switched off next year, as planned. Coal will be phased out by 2030 (8 years earlier than previously planned) and of non-renewables only gas is deemed ‘indispensable for the foreseeable future’. However, the document contains no comments at all about Nord Stream 2, the controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

A selection of other announcements include the legalisation of cannabis, the banning of arms sales for specific conflicts, the return of museum objects to other countries, the acceleration of the accession of the Western Balkans into the EU and the even equal representation of male and female MPs in the Bundestag.

Tensions in Germany are already high with a renewed migrant crisis in the east, widening class divisions and ongoing problems with the integration of radicalised political and religious communities. Germany undeniably needs big changes after sixteen years of slow-moving Merkelism. But knee-jerk identity politics from Berlin does not strike me as the way to move the country forward together.

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Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago

In Wales we already lowered the voting age to 16 for the Assembly elections. Almost everybody I know approves of this. They say, “But young people know more now than we did when we were young.”

This idea is so patently false that it is laughable. Knowing is not just looking at your phone or talking to your friends. Knowing is also about personal experience and, if anything, young people today are protected from having any experience at all.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I completely agree. My goodness, when I think how daft I was at 16 I start to think the voting age should be upped to at least 25 – if not 30.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Ah, but this is because you and I were not the paragons of wisdom that today’s sixteen-year olds are. Or at least that seems to be what we are constantly being told. Why is the government thinking of raising the minimum age for marriage age from sixteen to eighteen? Why are parents responsible for their sixteen-year old off-spring? This can’t have anything to do with the fact that they are unable to make rational choices at that age, because their wisdom is legendary.

Last edited 8 months ago by Linda Hutchinson
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago

In almost all traditional societies, people were held to have come of age by 16 at the latest, and could certainly marry by then or earlier. If people can have sex, join the Army etc, I don’t see why they should not vote.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I don’t see the connection between sex, joining the army, and voting. They all seem somewhat different to me.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

For sometime my sons have advocated that the voting age should be raised to 25. As far as they are concerned substantially all of their contemporaries are not competent to vote.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
8 months ago

I actually think people should be required to pass a short test before they’re allowed to vote. It would comprise simple questions – who’s the PM? which party is in power? from which party is my MP? how many countries make up the UK? what’s the capital of Scotland? That sort of level. If you fail the test, you are too ignorant to vote.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I had a university educated colleague who asked whether he should vote in the forthcoming General Election.
After a brief discussion we decided no. In the most basic terms he did not know what the issues were or what he would be voting for.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well it cerrtainly should not be a test of the nature of the so-called “Life in the UK” test we foist on immigrants on the ‘Leave to Remain’ path: which includes questions like “What sort of event is the Grand National” or “who developed the Radar”, that are irrelevant to the business of getting on with life here.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think the same about university. I went when I was eighteen and with hindsight this was about seven years too early.
My daughter’s just started at one at a similar age and is if anything even less equipped than I was for independent living.

Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

71 ?

George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

if anything the voting age should be raised. People live much longer than we did when most voting rights were established in law. It was presumed at 18 people would be an adult. Adolescence for most now lasts until they are in their 30’s.
I’m 99% sure i recently read an article in the guardian arguing to give babies the right to vote, if i can find it i’ll post the link. As soon as i saw it , i thought there is no idea so stupid the Guardian won’t print it. Oddly it didn’t advocate for the right to vote for foetuses,( I cant imagine why, Guardianland would want to exclude that demographic from representation)

Last edited 8 months ago by George Glashan
George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago

Votes for children! Why we should lower the voting age to six
thanks Michael, i had slightly misremembered it they have set the age limit at 6. the article is exactly as stupid and transparently self serving of the Guardians agenda as you would expect. i wouldn’t actually recommend reading it. When the Guardian is publishing an article from The Onion but in sincerity then you know its not worth your time.

Last edited 8 months ago by George Glashan
M. Gatt
M. Gatt
8 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

If I were of an authoritarian bent and was fond of manipulating people I would start by manipulating the very important child voter.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

I presume postal votes would be likely to be used in such cases.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Didn’t you know everything at 16? I did but when I got to 17 I realised I wasn’t so sure. At 16 and even now at 18 my youngest grandson is still very much attached to his mother’s apron-strings and, being Welsh, has the vote that I was denied. “Old enough to die but not old enough to vote” was the student chant in those days.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”― Mark Twain

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

When I was 16, most of my less fortunate, non-grammar school contemporaries were in the workplace. Many of the boys faced a lifetime down a hole in the ground, although it didn’t work out that way. They were far more mature than teenagers are now.
There is an argument that people who are working and paying taxes should be allowed to vote. There is also an argument that those who are not contributing financially to society should not.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
8 months ago

So no retirees? I guess you mean a record of contributions? Then how many years? It gets tricky.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
8 months ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

At least 20.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago

I have my own business but have stopped working so that I have more time for UnHerd. There is an argument that I and people like me should be disenfranchised. But I don’t feel able to discuss properly the situation of somebody at 20 years of age who is on benefits or is a student.
I am not particularly against people like me (old) losing the vote because I will never see the future, or very much of it. So I can’t carp about missing the supreme event, the crowning of Greta as President of the World.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Nice post and what a superb final sentence.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You are right. It is not the stupidity or lack of education of the young that is the problem it is the lack of experience. There are endless political programmes that sound wonderful in theory to seduce the youthful voter but experience of life tends to provide a more realistic idea as to how things are likely to work out in practice. The various socialist collective proposals sound enticing unless you have experienced the outcomes in practice. The young lack sufficient cynicism to be permitted a vote.
My son used to tell me how his chemistry teacher at 6th form college used to regale the class with political diatribes against the tories who apparently were going to raise the cost of University to £15,000 a year. At a time when education seems to be increasingly directed towards what to think rather than how to think lowering the voting age is plainly a piece of electoral gerrymandering.
A better reform would be to confine voting to tax payers only but substantially lower the tax thresholds and include those receiving benefits in the class of taxpayers so that everyone would be aware of the personal effects of public expenditure.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yep. Sort of agree but students? Househusbands? (Note more than a dash here of political correctness).

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Teenagers’ sense of righteousness, justice, natural rebellion and vindictiveness are easily manipulated. Indeed many left-wing politicians cynically pander to this demographic exactly for this very reason.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

…and so do all the others, to be fair. That’s what national politics has been for a long while now – pandering to the useful demographic identified by your focus groups, whilst splashing public cash to your networks (and future employers).

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I have yet to find a 16 year old who knows as much as I did when i was 16, let alone what I know now.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
8 months ago

Very worrying about the potential lowering of the voting age. This is nothing but a vote grab from the lefty/green briggade as they know how easy it is to win the hearts of naive idealistic Greta wannabees. As we have seen recently, the under 18s are VERY easily brainwashed by left-leaning teachers, many of whom are radical, some are outright communists, and hardly any of them have any experience outside of acedemia.

Douglas H
Douglas H
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

They’re easily led, full stop. I don’t think the Nazis were particularly left wing.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Absolutely, all potentially repressive regimes from the right and left know this – the Young Communists, the Hitler Youth, The Red Guard are just the most well known examples, but they all know the first thing that must be done is to reduce the influence of their parents.

Alan Bright
Alan Bright
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Well, they did self-ID as socialists – they certainly weren’t in favour of individual freedom and a small state.

John Lee
John Lee
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Nazi = National Socialist but not left wing?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  John Lee

Workers’ socialist party.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago

“The voting age will be lowered to 16”

“In terms of migration too, German society is in for a paradigm shift. The coalition treaty speaks of Germany as an ‘immigration society’”

“‘self-declaration law’, which will allow everyone to change their gender by declaration alone. Gender reassignment surgery will be fully funded through the public health system.”

“NATO remains an ‘indispensable’ part of German policy in which the coalition ‘will invest accordingly’ but equally the UN is described as ‘the most important institution.’”

“The nuclear power plants will be switched off next year, as planned. Coal will be phased out by 2030”

“A selection of other announcements include the legalisation of cannabis, the banning of arms sales for specific conflicts, the return of museum objects to other countries, the acceleration of the accession of the Western Balkans into the EU and the even equal representation of male and female MPs in the Bundestag.”

Its like watching someone you know descend into total Meth addiction….I lived in Germany for 6 months, and was there many times, Germany is a wonderful place, this is tragic to watch.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Very much like the 1930s in Germany, the difference being that this new agenda will first create the mob before the mob will rule the country.

John Hicks
John Hicks
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

An amazing country that has cradled our civilisation (and done its bit to wreck it from time to time). But having again gathered its courage and values with some triumph, sure doesn’t deserve any treaty of political guidance from 753 representatives to wreck itself again. Very sad prospect.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago

Foreign policy and security doesn’t start until page 143..”
= absolutely not surprising. Classic Germany. Anyone looking to Germany for leadership on the international stage will be disappointed, as the country much prefers to hide behind the sofa. Or France. Or the EU. Or anything else so that it doesn’t have to step up to the plate.
“In terms of energy, Germany will bank largely on renewables in the hope that the technology will develop accordingly. The nuclear power plants will be switched off next year, as planned. Coal will be phased out by 2030 (8 years earlier than previously planned) and of non-renewables only gas is deemed ‘indispensable for the foreseeable future’. However, the document contains no comments at all about Nord Stream 2, the controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.”
= Pure naivety. Hope for the best and jump even deeper into Putin’s pocket. No, that won’t go wrong at all.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Brief addendum: Baerbock as Foreign Minister? Is that a joke? Blimey, no wonder foreign policy is hidden pretty far down the agenda.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

That’s the policy that will kill them. They either reverse the policy and lose voters or don’t and people freeze in winter.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think their new motto is going to become “Kiss Me, I’m German”.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
8 months ago

Is there any sane left wing out there anymore?

Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
8 months ago

So refugees are welcome mark 2 . . . I am sure this message has been warmly seized upon in Poland and indeed, Belarus. Lukashenko no doubt already inviting refugees to come to Germany.
“Wir schaffen das” 😮

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago

Ich glaube das Beste ist wir gehen gerade zum Pub.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Mine’s a G and T, thanks.

Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Ein prosit for this new “traffic light” alliance! Our German friends are going to need it.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
8 months ago

Germany is going to self-destruct pursuing these policies.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
8 months ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

The German left will.

Sandra Shreve
Sandra Shreve
8 months ago

There is no moving forward for Germany after this. It will inexorably move leftward. In addition to generalized misery, a weakened education system (used to be the best in the world), and decrease in GDP, I see significant rise in anti-Semitism just as clearly as I see my computer screen.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
8 months ago

While agreeing with other commenters on the inadvisability of lowering the voting age, I would note that if 16 year olds are less savvy today than previously it is the fault of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations…

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
8 months ago

Voters deserve to get it good and hard, like those in the US who put a man with hardly a mind left in the White House..

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago

Responding to the climate crisis by switching off nuclear power plants is downright insane.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
8 months ago

Ex secondary teacher. Some 16 yr olds are delightful thoughtful people. Some are daft as a brush. True of adults of course. You can see why voting restrictions in the past, seemingly outrageous today, had some validity- property owners likely to have some education etc.

John Lee
John Lee
8 months ago

Do you mean a “regressive agenda”?

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
8 months ago

Calling this lot progressive is plain dangerous. The dafter the ideas, the more the media describe them as ‘progressive’. The word is associated with good/improving. Thus those who disagree must be bad/reactionary.

I admire this author, and hope she does not fall into this trap. If, of course, this hotch potch coalition wrecks the German economy, which seems quite likely, the consequences for the Eurozone, and for us, are too awful to contemplate.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
8 months ago

Is this coalition viable? The Greens may be less ‘green’ these days (hence the wobbling over Nordstream 2). But economically they are well to the left of the FDP.
We’ve just seen the chaos in Sweden where the Greens pulled out of the coalition over the budget. I suspect one of the junior partners in this traffic light coalition will do the same.
After 16 years of Merkel’s stability, perhaps Germany will go the way of Belgium and Netherlands with years of unstable coalitions.

Rach Smith
Rach Smith
8 months ago

Ugh. The use of the word ‘progressive’ makes it sound as if the policies are a positive thing.Given the Trans/self id/prioritising gender over biological sex, ‘Deranged and regressive’ politics seems more on the money.

Last edited 8 months ago by Rach Smith
Rach Smith
Rach Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Rach Smith

Happy days

Last edited 8 months ago by Rach Smith
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
8 months ago

Oh dear, the German government is going the way of the USA woke Democrats. Expect fireworks from the electorate once they realise the impact of such policies.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago

So the bust of Nefertiti is to return to Egypt?