Mayor of tough Berlin district among new German ministers

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s center-left Social Democrats announced Friday they’re nominating the mayor of one of Berlin’s toughest districts among six ministers the party will have in the country’s next government.

Franziska Giffey is considered a rising star within the party and will take charge of the Families Ministry — the first ministerial position held by Chancellor Angela Merkel from 1991 to 1994. Like Merkel, Giffey was born in the former East Germany.

The 39-year-old became mayor of Neukoelln three years ago. The southeastern district of Berlin has a high poverty rate and many families with an immigrant background. Giffey said she wants to ensure that children who grow up in poor families with low levels of education have the same chance to finish school and succeed in life.

The Social Democrats also confirmed Justice Minister Heiko Maas will move to the Foreign Ministry and Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, a member of the federal government from 2007-2009, will control Germany’s powerful Finance Ministry. The party managed to wrest the post from Merkel’s Union bloc as part of a deal to continue the so-called grand coalition until 2021.

Katarina Barley, a former judge, will get the justice portfolio, the party said. Its former general secretary, Hubert Heil, will lead the Labor Ministry, and the Environment Ministry will be headed by Svenja Schulze, a lawmaker from western Germany.

Like Merkel’s party, the Social Democrats have proposed an equal number of male and female ministers. The overall balance is tipped by Merkel’s Bavarian allies, who nominated three men.

Merkel will be elected for a fourth term by Parliament on Wednesday, after which she will propose her Cabinet to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Germany has been without a new government since September’s national election, the longest such period in the country’s post-war history.

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