Germany's centre-left Social Democrats party names seasoned politicians to key posts in a new government they share with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

Social Democrats party (SPD) leaders Andrea Nahles (L) and Olaf Scholz stand next to designated German Foreign minister Heiko Maas during a press conference to announce the names of their ministers in the new government at the party's headquarters in Berlin, on March 9, 2018.
Social Democrats party (SPD) leaders Andrea Nahles (L) and Olaf Scholz stand next to designated German Foreign minister Heiko Maas during a press conference to announce the names of their ministers in the new government at the party's headquarters in Berlin, on March 9, 2018. (AFP)

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) on Friday named two seasoned politicians to key posts in a new government, with Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz to become finance minister in Europe's largest economy and the justice minister becoming foreign minister.

The SPD's designated leader Andrea Nahles and Scholz announced the party's six ministry appointments at a news conference. 

Justice Minister Heiko Maas would replace Sigmar Gabriel as foreign minister, Nahles said.

The SPD on Sunday said two-thirds of its members had voted in favour of a repeat of the "grand coalition" with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives that have governed Germany since 2013, with the new government to be sworn in on March 14.

Nahles said Scholz, a 59-year-old lawyer who backs closer European integration, would also be vice chancellor.

Merkel's conservatives are upset that she agreed to give the SPD the key finance post to secure the coalition deal after eight years under budget hawk Wolfgang Schaeuble, who was known for his insistence on austerity for indebted eurozone states.

The SPD generally favours more spending than the conservatives but the parties have agreed to stick to the goal of a balanced budget with no new debt.

Other ministerial berths

Maas, 51, is best known for introducing ambitious laws in his previous job that forced social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to remove hate speech from their sites.

He is an outspoken critic of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), racist crime and anti-Semitism.

Hubertus Heil will take over as labour minister. 

Katarina Barley, a 49-year-old who took over as family minister last year, will head the justice ministry. 

Franziska Giffey, a 39-year-old from the former Communist East will become family minister. 

Svenja Schulze, a 49-year-old who worked as research and science minister in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia until the SPD lost the regional election there in 2017, was chosen as environment minister. 

Gabriel out of alliance 

Earlier on Thursday, Sigmar Gabriel said that he would not join Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government.

The move came as no surprise. Gabriel has had tense relations with Andrea Nahles, one of the SPD's new leaders along with Olaf Sholz, and he said they had told him he would not be part of the government due to be sworn in next week.

Sigmar Gabriel, who has previously been economy minister and environment minister, says it had been a
Sigmar Gabriel, who has previously been economy minister and environment minister, says it had been a "big honour" to serve his party and his country. (Reuters)

Gabriel, who has previously been economy minister and environment minister, said it had been a "big honour" to serve his party and his country, in his statement.

"It was an exciting and eventful time which opened up big opportunities and experiences that went way beyond what I would dared to dream of as a younger person," he said on Facebook.

Respected by some for plain speaking and taking a clear stance, he was also seen as something of a loose cannon and known for zigzagging on issues, including migrant policy.

Media have sometimes mocked him for his undiplomatic touch. 

Visiting Israel last year, he met a group critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel talks with him.

Source: Reuters