Olaf Scholz (German pronunciation: [ˈoːlaf ˈʃɔlts]; born (1958-06-14)14 June 1958, in Osnabrück) is a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and First Mayor of Hamburg since 7 March 2011. In March 2018 he was designated to be Germany’s next finance minister during Angela Merkels’s fourth term as Chancellor of Germany​ , serving also as her deputy.

Political career

A former Vice President of the International Union of Socialist Youth, Scholz represented Hamburg Altona in the Bundestag between 1998 and 2001 as well as between 2002 and 2011. From May to October 2001, he was Minister of the Interior (Innensenator) of Hamburg under First Mayor Ortwin Runde and from 2002 to 2004 he was Secretary-General of the SPD; he resigned from that office when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, facing disaffection within his own party and hampered by persistently low public approval ratings, announced that he would step down as chairman of the Social Democratic Party.

Scholz served as the SPD parliamentary group’s spokesperson on the inquiry committee investigating the German Visa Affair in 2005. Following the federal elections later that year, he served as First Parliamentary Secretary of the SPD parliamentary group. In this capacity, he worked closely with the CDU parliamentary floor manager Norbert Röttgen to manage and defend the grand coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel in parliament.[22] He also served as member of the Parliamentary Control Panel, which provides parliamentary oversight of Germany’s intelligence services 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 succeeded Franz Müntefering as Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the first cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel, when Müntefering left office in November 2007.[4]

Following the 2009 elections, Scholz served as deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group. Between 2009 and 2011, he served on the group’s Afghanistan/Pakistan Task Force.[5] In 2010 he also participated in the annual Bilderberg Meeting in Sitges, Spain.[8]

First Mayor of Hamburg, 2011-present

On 20 February 2011 the Social Democrats led by Scholz won the 2011 Hamburg state election with 48.3% of the votes, resulting in 62 out of 121 seats in the Hamburg Parliament.[7] Scholz resigned as a member of the seventeenth Bundestag on 11 March 2011 shortly after his election as First Mayor; Dorothee Stapelfeldt, also a Social Democrat, was made Deputy First Mayor.

On June 7, 2011, Scholz attended the state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama in honor of Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.[11] As host of Hamburg’s annual St. Matthew’s 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).[23]

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

Scholz participated in the exploratory talks between the CDU, CSU and SPD parties to form a coalition government following the 2013 federal elections. 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. Alongside fellow Social Democrats Jörg Asmussen and Thomas Oppermann, Scholz was considered a possible successor to Schäuble in the post of finance minister at the time.

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. Since January 2015, he has been serving as Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Germany for Cultural Affairs under the Treaty on Franco-German Cooperation.

Under Scholz’ leadership, the Social Democrats handily won the 2015 state elections in Hamburg, receiving around 47 percent of the vote. His coalition government with the Green Party – with Green leader Katharina Fegebank serving as Deputy First Mayor – was sworn in on 15 April 2015.

In 2015, Scholz led Hamburg’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics at 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 candidacy in a referendum, with more than half voting against the project.

In 2015, Scholz – alongside Minister-President Torsten Albig of Schleswig-Holstein – negotiated a 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.

Other activities

Corporate boards

  • HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, Ex-Officio Chairman of the Supervisory Board
  • Hamburger Marketing Gesellschaft mbH (HMG GmbH), Ex-Officio Chairman of the Supervisory Board

Non-profits

  • Stiftung Lebendige Stadt, Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2009)
  • Deutsche Nationalstiftung, Member of the Senate[22]
  • Deutsches Museum, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • 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[22]
  • Food, Beverages and Catering Union (NGG), Member
  • ZDF, Member of the Television Board (2002-2010)
  • Policy Network, Member of the Board (2002-2007)

Controversy

When Die Tageszeitung interviewed Scholz, then serving as secretary general of the ruling SPD, during a 2003 party conference, he later demanded massive changes and threatened to pull the entire piece. When the editors said they would go ahead and publish it without authorization, Scholz warned that the paper would be excluded from all future SPD background talks.[22] The newspaper published the interview with all of Scholz's answers blacked, and the paper's editor-in-chief Bascha Mika condemned his behavior as a "betrayal of the claim to a free press, a betrayal of the journalist's self-definition, a betrayal of the reader."[22]

Personal life

Olaf Scholz is married with Britta Ernst (born 1961); they have no children. She is also a politician (SPD).