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Wolfgang Schäuble: Merkel’s pragmatic finance minister dies aged 81


Wolfgang Schäuble was Angela Merkel’s finance minister for eight years

Former German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who helped the eurozone through the debt crisis, has died at the age of 81.

A member of the German Bundestag for 51 years, he played a key role in negotiations on German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

He later survived an assassination attempt by a mentally unstable gunman.

And although he never served as chancellor, Schäuble was widely considered one of Germany’s most influential postwar politicians.

Beyond Germany, he became a hate figure for many Greeks during the Eurozone debt crisis, as the architect of a highly unpopular austerity program imposed on their country.

Wolfgang Schäuble joined the conservative CDU party in 1965 and entered the Bundestag seven years later, at the age of 30.

As West Germany’s interior minister, he co-signed the Treaty of East Berlin that unified the country in August 1990. He later called reunification “the high point of my political life.” .

Nine days after Germany’s official reunification, he was shot in the spinal cord and jaw during an election campaign event and used a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

He returned to the public stage a few months later with an impassioned call for the reunified country’s capital to be moved from Bonn to Berlin.


Wolfgang Schäuble (left) signed the German reunification treaty on August 31, 1990, a few weeks before he was shot in the spine.

He then led the CDU in 1998, until Angela Merkel took power in 2000, amid a party donations scandal.

When she became German chancellor in 2005, she appointed him first as interior minister and then as finance minister, where he spent eight years balancing the German budget.

He got what is called Germany black Null or zero black budget deficit in 2014 and it was widely seen as the driving force behind the austerity policies adopted by the Eurozone in response to the debt crisis that began in 2008.

“The Greek debt crisis and the crises it has generated constitute a clear warning to European policymakers not to allow public debt to accumulate indefinitely,” he told the European Parliament in 2011.

His pragmatic approach to the eurozone crisis led him to propose a Greek “time-out” for the euro, although this proposal was rejected by Athens.

As Greece took out three international bailout loans, taxes rose, wages and pensions were cut and unemployment soared.

Leaving the government in 2017, Schäuble became president of the Bundestag. He was its longest-serving MP, winning 14 constituency elections.

In a speech to the European Parliament four years ago, Wolfgang Schäuble said that without European unification, east and west, there would have been no German reunification, and he warned that “the rules-based international order was under pressure.”

He retired from frontline politics only last year.

Video caption,

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble speaks about German reunification

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