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Wolfgang Schaeuble, German Political Giant, Passes Away At 81

 

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.

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