Wolfgang Schäuble says he feels vindicated by the results of often painful reforms carried out in exchange for EU loans in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus.
In an interview with the Financial Times (FT); as he prepares to change jobs after eight years as Europe’s most powerful finance minister, he insists the goal was never to impose austerity on Europe.
The goal instead was “a predictable, reliable finance policy that built up trust and generated growth”, he told the FT.
Monday’s eurogroup will be Mr Schäuble’s 113th and last eurogroup. He becomes Speaker of the Bundestag, the German parliament, later this month.
Speaking to the FT he says he feels vindicated. “I would argue with anyone; even more strongly now after eight years, that this policy generates more sustainable growth than any other,” he says.
The British paper reminds readers that his tenure has seen him vilified in southern Europe, nowhere more so than in Greece where Mr Schäuble is the “Mr Nein” who opposed gentler solutions to the country’s economic woes.
For his eurogroup partners, he has been a bruising and battle-ready negotiator committed to a eurozone with national responsibility and market discipline at its heart.
George Papaconstantinou, the first Greek finance minister Mr Schäuble would encounter, recalls an early run-in. “Are you a real finance minister?” Mr Papaconstantinou says his German counterpart asked, apparently casting doubt on whether the Greek had authority to take tough decisions.
At times, Mr Schäuble admits in his interview, he “got on my colleagues’ nerves”. Counterparts say he was guided by two competing principles: deep belief in closer European integration and determination that Germans should not have to pay for others’ mistakes.
On Greece, Mr Schäuble’s frustration reached breaking point after the leftwing Syriza party was elected in January 2015 to challenge the terms of Greece’s bailout.
“I led the debate about whether it might be better for Greece to take a timeout for a few years, but Greece didn’t want that,” he says. “And so there was nothing left to do but to go down this path which is extremely difficult for Greece’s political leaders, the path of reform.”
Source: Financial Times