SPD’s Scholz Bags German Finance Post, Raising Greek Hopes of Debt Relief

Olaf Scholz

Greek hopes of debt relief were strengthened on Wednesday with the likely appointment of a center-left finance minister in Berlin, as German politicians finally agreed on a new grand-coalition government.

After more than four months of deadlock, Chancellor Angela Merkel will remain in power but will hand over control of the finance ministry to her center-left rivals in the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

In a move that may bring a sigh of relief to many in Europe who longed for an end to the tight austerity championed by Wolfgang Schauble, SPD mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, will become the new finance minister, if party members agree to the deal with Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

The news will cheer the Greek government which will hope the new grand coalition will be more open to Athens’ agenda.

A recent report in the German newspaper Handelsblatt claimed: “No other foreign politician is so eager for [SPD leader] Martin Schulz to join the next German government as the Greek prime minister is. Alexis Tsipras is expecting Greek debt relief from a big coalition.”

The paper had claimed that Tsipras was hoping for a SPD finance minister who would be more open to easing austerity but reported that debt relief remains the Greek premier’s main target.

The U.K.’s Financial Times reports that the appointment of Scholz is a coup for the SPD and marks a big concession by Merkel, long seen as the sole architect of German policy on the EU.

Now the ministry will be run by a party that has called for the creation of a “United States of Europe” by 2025 and has enthusiastically welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for deepening EU integration, the British paper adds.