Wolfgang Schaeuble, the former parliament president who also served as finance minister during the euro debt crisis, has died
Wolfgang Schaeuble, the former president of the German parliament, has passed away at the age of 81 after a political career spanning more than 50 years. The veteran Christian-Democratic politician, who held several key positions, including finance minister, played a significant role in shaping Germany’s political landscape.
Schaeuble’s family announced his death on Tuesday evening at his residence in Offenburg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, surrounded by his relatives. He is said to have battled an undisclosed chronic illness.
Senior German officials and those from abroad have offered their condolences and starkly divergent opinions on the politician’s legacy.
Сhancellor Olaf Scholz noted in a message on X (formerly Twitter) that Schaeuble had “shaped our country for more than half a century.” With his passing, Germany lost a “sharp thinker” and a “strident democrat.”
Scholz’s predecessor in office, Angela Merkel, who had Schaeuble serving in her cabinet, said in a statement that he possessed “political and programmatic foresight.” She recounted how, in her fledgling career as a minister, she saw Schaeuble as a “political teacher.”
“We will miss Wolfgang Schaeuble’s voice in Germany, I will personally miss his advice,” the ex-chancellor added.
Meanwhile, Yanis Varoufakis, who served as finance minister under Greece’s left-wing government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in 2015, argued in a statement that the German politician was responsible for the “impoverishment of Greece and… the current de-industrialization of Germany and Europe’s slide into geopolitical insignificance.”
The Greek economist, referring to Schaeuble’s time as Germany’s finance minister, concluded that “history will judge him harshly.”
Schaeuble’s political career began in 1972 when he was first elected as a member of parliament for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. He led the CDU in the Bundestag from 1991 to 2000. In 2017, he assumed the role of Bundestag president until 2021, retaining a ceremonial role as the oldest parliament member until his passing.
Apart from his parliamentary duties, Schaeuble served as minister for special affairs and head of the chancellery under Helmut Kohl in the 1980s. He also held the position of interior minister, notably signing the German Unification Treaty in 1990, a pivotal moment in the country’s history. He was reappointed as interior minister again in 2005 by then-Chancellor Merkel.
Speaking to the Tagesspiegel media outlet, Schaeuble once recounted that the “basic conception of the Unification Treaty was my idea.” That same year, the politician survived an assassination attempt that left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
As finance minister between 2009 and 2017, he spearheaded Chancellor Merkel’s government’s strict financial policies in the wake of the 2008 global crisis.
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