Wolfgang Schaeuble, with over 50 years in the German parliament, has passed away at 81, concluding one of Germany’s lengthiest political careers, during which he played a crucial role in anchoring his country at the center of Europe.
Early Political Career and Role in German Reunification
- Wolfgang Schauble, born in 1942 in Freiburg, southwest Germany, began his political journey as a tax official in Baden-Württemberg.
- His political career took off when he was elected to the West German parliament in 1972.
- Notably, Schäuble played a pivotal role in the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, working as a key negotiator in the treaty that laid the legal groundwork for the reunification on October 3, 1990.
Overcoming Setbacks: The Shooting Incident and Swift Return to Politics
- In a tragic turn of events, Schauble was shot during an election rally in 1990, just days after reunification.
- Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, he made a swift return to politics, demonstrating resilience and dedication to his role.
- This incident marked a significant chapter in his life, with Schauble using a wheelchair thereafter.
Advocacy for Moving the Capital and Return to Politics
- In 1991, Schauble passionately advocated for the reunified Germany to move its capital from Bonn to Berlin. He believed this decision would symbolize the overcoming of Europe’s division.
- Despite a narrow vote in parliament, the move was approved. Schauble’s commitment to the reunification process remained unwavering.
Austerity Advocate During the European Debt Crisis
- Appointed as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s finance minister in October 2009, Schauble found himself at the center of the European debt crisis triggered by Greece’s budget deficit revelations.
- Germany, under Schauble’s influence, pursued a strategy emphasizing austerity, drawing criticism for its perceived lack of generosity.
- Despite the backlash, Schauble maintained that tough decisions were necessary for the stability of the eurozone.
Controversial Financial Policies and Unilateral Actions
- Schauble faced criticism for his advocacy of tougher rules to control government deficits and his emphasis on fiscal restraint.
- His abrupt and unilateral ban on certain speculative trading practices, while unsettling markets, showcased his unapologetic approach.
- He defended such actions, stating that to achieve objectives, one doesn’t necessarily seek approval from those affected.
Legacy and Last Years in Politics
- As Schauble’s political career progressed, he took pride in balancing Germany’s budget for the first time in decades. Critics argued that this fiscal restraint hindered the overall recovery of the eurozone.
- In 2017, after eight years as finance minister, Schauble became the speaker of the German parliament, solidifying his status as an elder statesman. He remained a lawmaker until his death at the age of 81 on Tuesday evening at home.