Olaf Scholz is a German politician who has been serving as Vice-Chancellor of Germany and Federal Minister of Finance since 14 March 2018. He previously served as First Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and was Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 2009 to 2019.
Scholz is a lawyer and was called to the bar in 1985, specializing in labor and employment law. 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 elections, becoming First Mayor, holding that role 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. He subsequently stepped down from his position as Deputy Leader.
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.
Early life and education
Olaf Scholz was born on June 14, 1958 in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, but grew up Hamburg’s Rahlstedt district. He has two younger brothers, Jens Scholz, an anesthesiologist and CEO of the University Medical Center Schleswig Holstein; 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. He later found employment as a lawyer specializing in labor and employment law.
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, holding the seat until he resigned in June 2001 to take up the position of Senator for the Interior of Hamburg under First 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. He left office in October 2001, after the defeat of his party at the 2001 Hamburg state election. One year later, he was again elected to the Bundestag in the 2002 German federal election.
From 2002 to 2004, Scholz 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.
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. 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).
In 2007, Scholz joined the Merkel Government, succeeding Franz Müntefering as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.
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. In 2010, he participated in the annual Bilderberg Meeting in Sitges, Spain.
First Mayor of Hamburg
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. 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 honor 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). 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.
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.
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. 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 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.
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.
Under Scholz’s leadership, the Social Democrats won the 2015 state election 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 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. 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.
Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance
After a lengthy period of government formation following the 2017 federal election, during which the CDU, CSU, and SPD agreed to continue in the 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. Within his first months in office, Scholz became one of Germany’s most popular politicians, reaching an approval rating of 50 percent.
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 neighbors such as Italy and France. 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.
With France, Scholz drove efforts to introduce a global corporate minimum tax and new tax rules for tech giants.
During Scholz’s time in office, the Ministry of Finance was one of the subjects of a parliamentary inquiry into the so-called Wirecard scandal, in the process of which Scholz denied any responsibility but replaced regulator BaFin’s president Felix Hufeld and vowed to strengthen financial market supervision.
Within the Social Democrats, Scholz is widely viewed as hailing from the moderate wing of the party.
After the 2017 national elections, 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.
In the run-up to the 2021 federal election, Scholz has indicated that he opposes entering into a coalition government with the populist socialist Die Linke party but is in favor of cooperation with Alliance 90/The Greens.
Since taking office as minister of finance, Scholz has been committed to a continued goal of no new debt and limited public spending. In 2018, he suggested the creation of a Europe-wide unemployment insurance system to make the Eurozone more resilient to future economic shocks. He also wants to introduce a financial transaction tax.
- European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), ex-officio member of the board of governors
- European Investment Bank (EIB), ex-officio member of the board of governors (since 2018)
- European Stability Mechanism, member of the board of governors (since 2018)
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), ex-officio member of the board of governors (since 2018)
- International Monetary Fund (IMF), ex-officio alternate member of the board of governors
- KfW, ex-officio member of the Board of Supervisory Directors (since 2018)
- 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)
- Stiftung Lebendige Stadt, member of the board of trustees (since 2009)
- Deutsche Nationalstiftung, member of the Senate
- Deutsches Museum, member of the board of trustees
- Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), member
- 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
- Food, Beverages and Catering Union (NGG), member
- ZDF, member of the Television Board (2002–2010)
- Policy Network, member of the board (2002–2007)
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. 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.”
Scholz was criticized for his handling of the riots that took place during the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg. Mayor Scholz apologized to residents but refused to resign.
Olaf Scholz is married to politician Britta Ernst (SPD) (born 1961).
The couple lived in Hamburg’s Altona district before moving to Potsdam in 2018.
|Vice-Chancellor of Germany|
14 March 2018
|Preceded by||Sigmar Gabriel|
|Minister of Finance|
14 March 2018
|Preceded by||Wolfgang Schäuble|
|Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party|
13 November 2009 – 6 December 2019
|Preceded by||Frank-Walter Steinmeier|
|Succeeded by||Hubertus Heil|
|First Mayor of Hamburg|
7 March 2011 – 13 March 2018
|Preceded by||Christoph Ahlhaus|
|Succeeded by||Peter Tschentscher|
|Minister of Labour and Social Affairs|
21 November 2007 – 27 October 2009
|Preceded by||Franz Müntefering|
|Succeeded by||Franz Josef Jung|
|Chief Whip of the Social Democratic Party|
13 October 2005 – 21 November 2007
|Preceded by||Wilhelm Schmidt|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Oppermann|
|General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party|
20 October 2002 – 21 March 2004
|Preceded by||Franz Müntefering|
|Succeeded by||Klaus Uwe Benneter|
|Senator for the Interior of Hamburg|
30 May 2001 – 31 October 2001
|First Mayor||Ortwin Runde|
|Preceded by||Hartmuth Wrocklage|
|Succeeded by||Ronald Schill|
|Member of the Bundestag|
for Hamburg Altona
17 October 2002 – 11 March 2011
|Preceded by||himself (2001)|
|Succeeded by||Ingo Egloff|
26 October 1998 – 6 June 2001
|Preceded by||Marliese Dobberthien|
|Succeeded by||himself (2002)|
|Member of the Hamburg Parliament|
2 March 2015 – 2 March 2015
|Constituency||Social Democratic List|
7 March 2011 – 7 March 2011
|Succeeded by||Andrea Rugbarth|
|Constituency||Social Democratic List|
|Born||14 June 1958|
Osnabrück, West Germany
|Political party||Social Democratic Party|
|Alma mater||University of Hamburg|
- Chazan, Guy (9 February 2018). “Olaf Scholz, a sound guardian for Germany’s finances”. Financial Times. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
- Madeline Chambers (26 October 2019). “Germany’s Scholz tops SPD leader vote, but faces run-off”. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- Deutsche Welle, ed. (30 November 2019). “Germany’s Social Democrats throw coalition with Merkel into doubt”. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
- Erika Solomon (August 10, 2020), German Social Democrats pick Olaf Scholz to run for chancellor Financial Times.
- Gammelin, Cerstin (25 June 2020). “Olaf Scholz Bruder: Warum Jens Scholz in Paris berühmt”. Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 7 September 2021.
- Schindler, Fabian (21 March 2011). “Stades Bürgermeister verkündet seinen Abschied”. Hamburger Abendblatt (in German). Retrieved 7 September 2021.
- “Kein ärztlicher Eingriff mit Gewalt” [No forced medical intervention]. Pressestelle der Ärztekammer Hamburg (in German). 30 October 2001. Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
- Richard Bernstein (7 February 2004),  New York Times.
- Sebastian Fischer (13 November 2007), Müntefering Resignation: Merkel Loses ‘Mr. Grand Coalition’ Spiegel Online.
- Andreas Cremer and Brian Parkin, “Muentefering, Vice-Chancellor Under Merkel, Quits”, Bloomberg.com, 13 November 2007.
- “Merkel defends record as Germany’s tense governing coalition hits 2-year mark”, Associated Press, 21 November 2007.
- “Olaf Scholz”. SPD-Bundestagsfraktion (in German). 13 September 2021. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
- “Bilderberg Meetings: Sitges, Spain 3-6 June 2010 – Final List of Participants”. Bilderberg. Archived from the original on 17 June 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
- AICGS Coverage of the 2011 Land Elections Archived 16 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Expected Attendees at Tonight’s State Dinner Office of the First Lady of the United States, press release of 7 June 2011.
- Josh Wingrove (17 February 2017), Trudeau Stresses Fair Wages, Tax Compliance in Warning to Europe Bloomberg News.
- Scholz Bevollmächtigter für deutsch-französische Kulturzusammenarbeit Die Welt, 21 January 2015.
- Nicholas Brautlecht (23 September 2013), Hamburg Backs EU2 Billion Buyback of Power Grids in Plebiscite Bloomberg News.
- Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue (30 September 2013), Germany Sets Coalition Talks Date as Weeks of Bartering Loom Bloomberg News.
- Patrick Donahue (28 October 2013), Merkel Enters Concrete SPD Talks as Finance Post Looms Bloomberg News.
- Rainer Buergin and Birgit Jennen (20 September 2013), Schaeuble Seen Keeping Finance Post Even in SPD Coalition Bloomberg News.
- Rainer Buergin (4 March 2015), Merkel Weighs End of Reunification Tax for East Germany Bloomberg Business.
- Caroline Copley (15 February 2015), Merkel’s Conservatives Suffer Blow in State Vote, Eurosceptics Gain New York Times.
- Hamburg mayor: our Olympics will cost $12.6bn, less than London 2012 The Guardian, 8 October 2015.
- Karolos Grohmann (29 November 2015), Hamburg drops 2024 Games bid after referendum defeat Reuters.
- Arno Schuetze and Foo Yun Chee (27 May 2015), HSH Nordbank strikes rescue deal with EU Reuters.
- NDR. “Nachrichten aus Hamburg”. www.ndr.de.
- Michael Nienaber (29 May 2018), Germany’s ‘miserly’ Scholz irks comrades at home and abroad Reuters.
- Guy Chazan (June 4, 2021), [German stimulus aims to kick-start recovery ‘with a ka-boom’] Financial Times.
- Joseph Nasr (May 9, 2021), Germany’s SPD appeal to working class before election Reuters.
- Holger Hansen, Thomas Leigh and Sabine Siebold (April 27, 2021), Germany to spend 90% of EU recovery money on green, digital goals Reuters.
- Michael Nienaber, Leigh Thomas and Padraic Halpin (April 6, 2021), Germany and France see global tax deal, Ireland has doubts Reuters.
- Michael Nienaber (June 14, 2021), Analysis: Germany’s Scholz bets on experience in uphill election battle Reuters.
- John O’Donnell and Christian Kraemer (April 22, 2021), Germany’s finance minister rejects blame for Wirecard fiasco Reuters.
- German minister denies responsibility in Wirecard scandal Associated Press, April 22, 2021.
- Guy Chazan (August 16, 2020), Wirecard casts shadow over Scholz’s bid to be German chancellor Financial Times.
- Guy Chazan (April 22, 2021), Olaf Scholz defends German government’s record on Wirecard Financial Times.
- Emily Schultheis (5 January 2018), 8 key players in Germany’s coalition talks Politico Europe.
- “SPD’s Scholz aims for Green coalition in next German government”. POLITICO. 5 September 2021. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
- Myriam Rivet and Michael Nienaber (10 June 2018), France, Germany still split on eurozone reforms, French official says Reuters.
- Board of Governors European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
- Board of Governors European Investment Bank (EIB).
- Board of Governors: Olaf Scholz European Stability Mechanism.
- Board of Governors Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
- Members International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- Board of Supervisory Directors and its Committees Archived 16 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine KfW.
- Senate, Deutsche Nationalstiftung.
- Members Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
- Study Groups, Discussion Groups and Task Forces German Council on Foreign Relations.
- Moritz Schuller (7 September 2003), The right to revise The Guardian
- Ben Knight (19 January 2016), Time to end interview authorization in Germany?Deutsche Welle
- Ildiko Röd (25 June 2018), Vizekanzler ist Neu-Potsdamer Märkische Allgemeine.