Germany's Merkel To Be Sworn In Again As Chancellor
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. Europe's biggest economy finally has a government. Parliamentary elections in Germany were held back in September and finally, tomorrow German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be sworn in for a third term. Contentious coalition talks through the fall had left Germans wondering when a new government would be in place.
Germans hope that a so-called grand coalition formed by left and right parties over the weekend will be worth the wait. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin that the deal brought a number of political firsts, including Germany's first female defense minister.
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CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (German spoken)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: At a televised news conference last night, Merkel said her new defense minister has the right combination of experience and interest in international affairs. She is Ursula von der Leyen, a 55-year-old doctor and mother of seven who is the force behind Germany's generous parental leave policies. Klaus Schubert, who is a German politics professor at the University of Muenster, says the former labor minister's lack of a military background won't hamper her in her new post.
KLAUS SCHUBERT: She had the largest ministry in the government of Angela Merkel and she is really a tough lady and a very decisive person.
NELSON: Von der Leyen is also seen as a potential successor to Merkel. But many say she faces a difficult task reforming the German defense ministry, which is plagued by scandal over a botched $700-million drone project. Another first announced yesterday was the appointment of a German woman with Turkish roots to a high-level post just below cabinet minister.
Aydan Ozoguz, who was born in Germany to Turkish parents, will be in charge of the sensitive topic of immigration. The new government is already promising Germans like her that they no longer have to limit their citizenship to just one country. Chancellor Merkel also created a new top-level post as a result of the NSA spying scandal to deal with intelligence matters.
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MERKEL: (German spoken)
NELSON: She did not say who would fill that position. But it shows the level to which Germans are still unhappy with revelations of widespread phone and e-mail surveillance, including the tapping of Merkel's cell phone, says analyst Schubert.
SCHUBERT: The individual freedom of information in Germany is a very, very high value. This is really a kind of offense, so to speak, and there has to be something. It is kind of a symbol but I think it's also a very wise political decision.
NELSON: After it convenes in January, the new government plans to introduce Germany's first-ever minimum wage, and lower the age for many Germans at which they can collect a full pension to 63. Both measures have German business leaders bristling over the expected billions in cost. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.