Wolfgang Schäuble: Zwei Leben (German Edition)
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During the negotiations, it seemed as though you were the strict father trying to bring spoiled children to reason. At home, we were three brothers, and when we fought, my father always said that the stronger one should back down. And that's how it was in the Greece negotiations. The one in the better position must try to help the weaker one. I tried to do that. Our impression was more that you were tirelessly negotiating over every tiny detail. Everyone only has limited abilities, but you have to try to do your best. You have to be aware of that so that you attain the necessary degree of composure.
As you see, I am close to reaching the point where I mellow with age. Can a program work even though Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he doesn't believe in it? That is the question. Previously, Tsipras rejected a similar program and then he campaigned for a "no" in the referendum, a position that a large majority supported. Now he wants to do the opposite of what he once supported.
One can indeed be doubtful. But for now, I trust the assurances of Mr. Tsipras, as is only fair. He has promised to implement the program even though he doesn't believe in it. The new program has tightened the conditions. Pensions are to be reformed, taxes increased and the labor market liberalized. Why do you think that the medicine that hasn't worked for five years will now suddenly help?
The problem is that for the last five years the medicine has not been taken as prescribed. That's why it is now important that those measures agreed to long ago are now implemented. In December, the troika made clear that Greece still hasn't tackled 15 important reforms. That must finally change. Could it be that you don't actually believe that the reforms will be implemented?
Wolfgang Schäuble Zwei Leben
No, otherwise we wouldn't have had to travel to Brussels. But that is exactly the reason why we need those controls of which you earlier said they would patronize the Greek people. It is more a question of whether the reforms are too much for the country. The economy has caved in, unemployment stands at 25 percent and the healthcare system is approaching collapse. The country cannot deliver what you are demanding. I see things differently. In , Greece had a budget deficit of 15 percent and a current accounts deficit of the same magnitude.
Both indicators show that the country was living beyond its means and that there was a significant need for reform. Greece is still paying for a public administration that is among the leaders in Europe in terms of the ratio of its cost to economic output. The country has pension expenditures that are far above European standards.
That has to be addressed, step by step. And by the way, that worked in all crisis countries, just not in Greece. I am not claiming that everything is easy, but you have to start with the restructuring and carry it through to the end. Those countries did that. Since the s, Baltic countries and countries in Central Europe have also been remarkably successful. We in the euro zone are on a real path to success, and it is much more sustainable than it is, for example, in many developing economies. The decision-making process in Europe is much more complicated than it is in any nation state, yet the euro zone -- aside from Greece -- is in much better shape than many countries that sometimes wrinkle their noses at us.
Is it not so that the euro, as it is currently constituted, divides Europe more than it brings the Continent together?
It does, however, show that European unity is never easy. It is true that Europe is cumbersome, bureaucratic and complicated. I hear that all the time, particularly in America.
Wolfgang Schäuble Zwei Leben (eBook, ) [irideryjawex.tk]
I respond by asking the critics whether they have a better idea for bringing together 28 countries that fought against each other for centuries. But they never have an answer. Given the problems that have plagued the implementation of reforms in Greece, do you think a Grexit remains a possibility? The debate over Greece's debt load has been continuing for five years now. But policymakers seem not to have taken a single step closer to a solution.
What conclusions do you draw from that? We have to expand the competencies of the economic and currency union. The five presidents of the European institutions recently submitted their proposals. In the coming months, this will provide a basis for discussing what can be done to make the euro zone more stable. We have to again generate more faith in the euro -- not just on the financial markets, but also among the populace.
We also have to strengthen regulations pertaining to healthy state finances and ensure that they are adhered to. To do so, we must change the European treaties in the medium term, which is difficult. Many shy away from doing so because they are afraid that further steps toward integration would be rejected by their people or parliaments. We are currently seeing that a currency union without political union cannot function without complications. So we have to move further toward establishing a political union, for example by strengthening the European Commission and the European Parliament.
But that means that member states must give up even more sovereignty. They have already taken this step when it comes to monetary policy, but are they also prepared to transfer financial policy competencies, for example, to the European level? Many have a problem with that. I am also in favor of a euro-zone finance minister, but to install one, the European treaties must be amended first. I was pleased to hear from President Hollande that France is now prepared to do so.
Are you pleased that suddenly everyone in Europe is in favor of increased integration? Of course, but I am also aware that the experiences of recent years have not made it easier to advocate for more Europe. Still, I'm not giving up. I am a realist, which is why I am unable to assert that we can only save the euro if we amend the treaties. We may have to do without. What is essential is that rules are followed and enforced. But when we do that, then we are accused of establishing a protectorate or abolishing democracy. That is all nonsense. In recent weeks, it has become apparent that you and the chancellor were not always of the same opinion when it comes to Greece.
Was that a coordinated game of role-playing? The chancellor and I do not engage in role-playing games. That isn't the chancellor's style nor is it mine. Everyone has their convictions. Merkel was my general secretary.
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We had a poster showing both of us and it read: You don't need to worry about it. The governing coalition would have a problem if the chancellor and her most important minister had divergent opinions on a question of such great import as aid to Greece. Divergent opinions are a part of democracy. In such a case, you jointly hash out a solution. In that process, everyone has a role to play. Angela Merkel is chancellor and I am the finance minister. Politicians' responsibilities come from the offices they hold. Nobody can coerce them. If anyone were to try, I could go to the president and ask to be relieved of my duties.
Discuss this issue with other readers! Show all comments Page 1. Benevolence comes before dissoluteness There is no way the Greeks are going to be able pay back nor pay down their debt. Their culture is so ingrained with entitlements that they are clueless of economics. The Greeks will eventually run out of other people's money [ The Greeks will eventually run out of other people's money they back to the crisis. Of course France disagrees with the German position as they can see the day coming when they will be sitting int he Greek chair building all the credits they can now.
Schauble for clearing up the debt relief issue. It' s not allowed because of treaties involving individual members. I had never even given it any thought. Then I did think about it, and I said: Apparently the subconscious never comes to terms with the disability. Looking back, would you have made it to the chancellorship without your disability? I didn't fail because of the fact that I was a wheelchair user, but because I had been the closest associate of Helmut Kohl for 16 years. There was a certain historical inevitability to the idea that I could not be considered as his successor during a crisis he had triggered.
Kohl let you down twice. The first time was when you hoped to become the candidate for chancellor, and the second time was during the scandal over political donations. Does this justify the conclusion that loyalty doesn't pay off in politics?
Well, first of all, Kohl didn't let me down when it came to my candidacy for the chancellorship. Before the parliamentary election, I knew perfectly well that he would never give up voluntarily. So his behavior was not a disappointment to me. That was a different matter. In a certain sense, I can even understand him. He was in a desperate situation. He believed that the donations scandal was overshadowing his entire life's work and his historic achievements. I said at the time that our personal relationship was over. But that doesn't change the fact that we had had a good working relationship for a long time, and that our country, and I, owe him a lot.
We treat each other with respect today. Looking back on your long history with Kohl, this is how you once characterized your relationship: Kohl is a very well-educated man. Those who believe they are intellectually superior to him are to be pitied at best. Kohl knew perfectly well that as the head of the government, he couldn't attend to every detail. It's a very similar situation for a cabinet minister. I tell my state secretaries and department heads: You have to tell me how we're going to do things, because you're the expert. And then we make the decisions.
Your allusion to intellectual arrogance is complete nonsense. Do you believe that former Chancellor Kohl will make a similarly celebrated appearance at a CDU convention once again? No, because his poor health will probably make it impossible. Were you irritated when Kohl said in an interview a few months ago that the CDU had apparently lost its direction when it came to foreign policy? As a former leader, it isn't easy to find your role. A certain amount of restraint can be helpful. Helmut Schmidt doesn't raise his index finger and tell his successors what they're doing wrong.
Kohl has given interviews here and there where I thought: Well, one could have put that differently. Helmut Kohl is old and sick now. Don't you have a desire to truly reconcile with him? Why was it easier for you to forgive Merkel than Kohl? She also seriously let you down. I'm familiar with this interpretation in the papers that you're alluding to, but I don't agree with it. She was very supportive when I was sick. Perhaps you'll recall that there was a broad movement in your party that would have liked to see you serve as president in You were in the Bundestag for 39 years, and in that time you suffered many injuries, both physical and emotional.
Did the years in the top echelon of politics make you more abrasive? These are the verdicts of people who don't know me. Okay, many think to themselves, he's sitting in a wheelchair, and that must be terribly strenuous. So he tortures and overworks himself and others. None of this is true at all. My brothers -- the older one is unfortunately dead -- have said that I'm still the same horrible person I used to be. Aside from the attempt to assassinate you in , what was the greatest injury inflicted on you in politics?
I've given up thinking about it. I've probably hurt many other people in my life, too. The scales are balanced. Have you done things as a politician that you, as a human being and a Christian, you would have preferred not to do? That, unfortunately, is part of being a Christian. It's something one has to strive for, and I do. And yet we will never be truly successful, which is why we need redemption. Do you regret having openly ridiculed your former spokesman, Michael Offer, during a press conference?
No one who was in the room has complained. The scene had a completely different effect on the Internet. It was not particularly noteworthy for any of those involved. But it seemed especially ludicrous on the Internet, which certainly irritated me. Because of modern communication technologies, as well as the omnipresent cameras and smartphones, one is under completely different, and more intense, scrutiny than in the past -- and it's constant.
But that's the modern world for you. It's a part of the reality in which we exist, and there's no reason to complain about it. But apparently you are complaining. At any rate, the incident reinforced the image of you as someone who treats his staff very brusquely. Well, if you ask the members of my staff, you won't hear them say that.
In fact, they're more likely to tell you that I'm much too generous. Why did you upset him? Excuse me, what part of what I said was a untrue and b insulting? I've realized that if someone is determined to misinterpret what I said, he certainly will, which is why I won't say things like that anymore. But the same thing doesn't necessarily apply to him.
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What did I say again? Okay, well then I certainly won't claim the opposite of that!
If someone said that I'm knowledgeable and likeable, and that I have a sense of humor, I wouldn't take it as an insult. When you recently congratulated former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on his 40th birthday, you added that if he were from the southwestern German region of Swabia, he would now become clever.
Wasn't that a nasty thing to say? There's a Swabian saying that goes: I assume you're asking a purely rhetorical question. I feel bad for him. I knew and liked his father, a conductor, and I saw a lot of potential in Karl-Theodor. It would be best for him to take a little break. Does the Guttenberg example also show that it doesn't just take charisma, but also hard work and discipline to be a good politician? History shows us a lot of things. It shows why the Lord's Prayer includes the supplication: