Wolfgang Schäuble

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Wolfgang Schäuble
Federal Minister of Finance
Assumed office
28 October 2009
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Peer Steinbrück
Federal Minister of the Interior
In office
22 November 2005 – 27 October 2009
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Otto Schily
Succeeded by Thomas de Maizière
In office
21 April 1989 – 26 November 1991
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Preceded by Friedrich Zimmermann
Succeeded by Rudolf Seiters
Chief of the Chancellery
Federal Minister for Special Affairs
In office
15 November 1984 – 21 April 1989
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Preceded by Waldemar Schreckenberger
Succeeded by Rudolf Seiters
Personal details
Born (1942-09-18) 18 September 1942 (age 72)
Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Political party Christian Democratic Union
Spouse(s) Ingeborg Schäuble (m. 1969)
Children 4
Alma mater University of Freiburg
University of Hamburg
Profession Lawyer
Religion Lutheranism
Website Official website

Wolfgang Schäuble ([ˈvɔlfɡaŋ ˈʃɔʏblə] born 18 September 1942) is a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who has served as Germany's Federal Minister of Finance in the second and third Merkel cabinets since 2009.

From 1984 to 1991 he was a member of Helmut Kohl's cabinet, first as Federal Minister for Special Affairs and Chief of the Chancellery and then as Federal Minister of the Interior. Between 1991 and 2000, he was chairman of the CDU/CSU group in the parliament, and from 1998 to 2000 also CDU party chairman. He served again as Federal Minister of the Interior in the First Merkel cabinet from 2005 to 2009.

Early life and education[edit]

Schäuble was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, as the son of a tax finance advisor. He is the middle brother of three.[1] After completing his Abitur in 1961, Schäuble studied law and economics at the University of Freiburg and the University of Hamburg, which he completed in 1966 and 1970 by passing the First and Second State Examinations respectively, becoming a fully qualified lawyer.

In 1971 Schäuble obtained his doctorate in law, with a dissertation called "The public accountant's professional legal situation within accountancy firms".

Early career[edit]

Schäuble entered the tax administration of the state of Baden-Württemberg, eventually becoming a senior administration officer in the Freiburg tax office. Subsequently he became a practising registered lawyer at the district court of Offenburg, from 1978 to 1984.

Political career[edit]

Schäuble's political career began in 1961 with him joining the Junge Union ("Young Union"), the youth division of the CDU. During his studies he served as chairman of the Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten (Association of Christian-Democrat Students, RCDS), in Hamburg and Freiburg. In 1965 Schäuble also became a member of the CDU. From 1969 to 1972 he was district chairman of the Junge Union in South Baden. From 1976 to 1984 he served as chairman of the CDU National Committee for Sport.

After the CDU was defeated in the 1998 federal election, Schäuble became chairman of the CDU. He gave up this post in 2000 in the wake of the party financing scandal, over the acceptance of cash donation over DM 100,000 contributed by the arms dealer and lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber back in 1994. Schäuble's successor was Angela Merkel.

Wolfgang Schäuble and Angela Merkel in the German Bundestag, 2014

Member of Parliament[edit]

Schäuble has been a member of the Bundestag since 1972. From 1981 to 1984 he was parliamentary whip of the CDU/CSU group and in November 1991 he became its chairman. Schäuble gave up this position in 2000 as another consequence of the financing scandal. Since October 2002 Schäuble has been deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU.

Schäuble has always been elected to the Bundestag by means of winning an electorate seat, rather than through a list placing in Germany’s system of proportional political representation. At the 2005 federal election he received 50.5% of all direct votes cast within his electoral district No. 285 in Offenburg, slightly lower than the 52.2% he received at the 2002 election.

Public office[edit]

1989: Wolfgang Schäuble (front centre), German Federal Minister of the Interior

Federal Minister for Special Affairs, 1984-1989[edit]

On 15 November 1984 Schäuble was appointed as Minister for Special Affairs and head of the Chancellery by Chancellor Helmut Kohl. In this capacity he was put in charge of the preparations for the first official state visit of Erich Honecker, Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), in 1987. By that time, Schäuble was widely considered to be one of Kohl's closest advisers.[2]

Federal Minister of the Interior, 1989-1991[edit]

In a cabinet reshuffle Schäuble was made Minister of the Interior on 21 April 1989. In this role he also led the negotiations on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany for reunification with the GDR in 1990. And he and East German State Secretary Günther Krause signed the Unification Treaty on 31 August 1990.[3][4]

In the 1990s Schäuble was one of the most popular politicians in Germany and there was constant speculation that he would replace Kohl as Chancellor, whose popularity was declining.[5] In 1997 Helmut Kohl stated that Schäuble was his desired candidate to succeed him, but he didn’t want to hand over power until 2002 when the European monetary union would be completed with the introduction of the euro. However, as the CDU/CSU lost the 1998 election, Schäuble never became Chancellor.

After Eberhard Diepgen was voted out as mayor of Berlin, Schäuble was in talks to be the top candidate for the early election on 21 October 2001, but was rejected by the Berlin branch of the CDU in favour of Frank Steffel.

Some quarters of the CDU and CSU wanted to put Schäuble forward as their candidate for the office of German President, the largely ceremonial head of state, at the beginning of March 2004, due to his extensive political experience. In spite of support from the Premiers of Bavaria (Edmund Stoiber (CSU)) and Hesse (Roland Koch (CDU)), Schäuble did not receive the party’s nomination in the end because CDU leader Angela Merkel, other CDU politicians and the liberal FDP party spoke out against him. This was because the election contributions scandal involving Schäuble that first came to light in late 1999 had never been entirely resolved.

Federal Minister of the Interior, 2005-2009[edit]

In November 2005, Schäuble once again became Minister of the Interior, this time in the grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Federal Minister of Finance, 2009-[edit]

In October 2009, Schäuble, by then one of Germany’s most seasoned politicians,[6] became Minister of Finance. Then aged 67, he was the oldest man in the cabinet and the longest-serving member of the parliament.[7]

During his time in office, Schäuble has widely been regarded the most vocal advocate in the government of European integration,[8] and a passionate proponent of co-operation with France.[9] Along with Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, he has often taken a hard line toward the countries that have caused the eurozone crisis.[10] In 2012, President Karolos Papoulias of Greece accused Schäuble of insulting his nation.[11] In October 2013, Schäuble was accused by the former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Sócrates, for regularly placing news in the media against Portugal during the Eurozone crisis prior to the Portuguese bailout. Socrates accused him of being a "Sly Minister of Finance".[12]

His reputation for tough control of spending has been helped by Germany’s rapid recovery from recession but he has repeatedly rebuffed calls from government supporters for vote-winning tax cuts.[13]

In 2012, following the resignation of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the 17 euro zone finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, suggestions soon gathered pace that Chancellor Angela Merkel was pressing for Schäuble to take up the position;[14] the job later went to Jeroen Dijsselbloem instead.

Political views[edit]

Domestic policy[edit]

In 1999 Schäuble initiated a CDU/CSU petition campaign against the reform of German citizenship law under the slogan "Integration: yes — double citizenship: no".

Foreign policy[edit]

During the Iraq War in 2003 Schäuble, in contrast to many German politicians, strongly defended the United States' decision to invade Iraq.

Schäuble accused Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of lacking an appropriate historical conscience, because he accepted alleged human rights violations by the Russian Government without criticism. On 31 March 2014, Schäuble compared the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany in 1938 to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in the 2014 Crimean crisis. Similar to Vladimir Putin, Adolf Hitler had claimed that "ethnic Germans" in peripheral regions of what was then Czechoslovakia required protection.[15]

European integration[edit]

Schäuble is also of the view that Europe's problem is not the European Union, but rather certain national governments that cannot resist the temptation to make the EU and Europe the scapegoat for their own national problems. Examples pointed out by Schäuble include the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, and the Ministry of Finance's view that the introduction of the euro would damage the German economy.

On 21 November 2011 Schäuble said the euro would emerge stronger from the current crisis, thus leaving Great Britain on the sidelines unless it signed up. He said Great Britain would be forced to join the eurozone faster than some in the UK thought.[16]

On homeland security[edit]

Schäuble has been calling for more muscular policies to combat terrorism since he joined the first Merkel government in 2005.[17] In March 2007, he said in an interview that the application of presumption of innocence should not be relevant for the authorization of counter-terrorist operations.[18]

Later that same year Schäuble proposed the introduction of legislation that would allow the German Federal Government to carry out targeted killing of terrorists, as well as outlaw the use of the Internet and cell phones for people suspected of being terrorist sympathizers.[19]

On 27 February 2008, he called on all European newspapers to print the Muhammad cartoons with the explanation: "We also think they're pathetic, but the use of press freedom is no reason to resort to violence."[20]

In July 2009, Schäuble said in an interview that Berlin would have to "clarify whether our constitutional state is sufficient for confronting new threats."[21][22] He said that the legal problems his office had to struggle with "extend all the way to extreme cases such as so-called targeted killing ... Imagine someone knew what cave Osama bin Laden is sitting in. A remote-controlled missile could then be fired in order to kill him."[21][22] The interviewer said: "Germany's federal government would probably send a public prosecutor there first, to arrest bin Laden."[21][22] Schäuble responded: "And the Americans would execute him with a missile, and most people would say: 'thank God'."[21][22]


Criticism of Schäuble centers on his law and order politics, especially in the field of counter-terrorism, for which he is denounced by some civil rights activists. Vocal opponents include the open-source software community.[23] The latest decisions of his ministry have led to a campaign dubbed Stasi 2.0 by its initiators, claiming intentional resemblance to the East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit.[24]

Controversy was sparked by Schäuble's recommendation in a 2007 interview of a book by Otto Depenheuer, who defended the Guantanamo Bay detention camp as a "legally permissible response in the fight of constitutional civilisation against the barbarity of terrorism".[25]

As a protest against his support for the increasing use of biometric data, the hacker group Chaos Computer Club published one of Schäuble's fingerprints in the March 2008 edition of its magazine Datenschleuder. The magazine also included the print on a film that readers could use to fool fingerprint readers.[26]

In November 2008, a bill giving the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) more authority failed when some states abstained from the vote in the Bundesrat, the legislative representative of the states. Subsequently, Schäuble suggested changing Bundesrat's voting procedures to discount abstention votes from the total. Many politicians of the opposition criticized his proposal, and some called for his resignation.[27][28]

In February 2009, Schäuble's homepage was hacked due to a security flaw in the TYPO3 CMS and its non-secure password gewinner ("winner"). The hack consisted of a defacement that placed a large, easily visible link on his front page to the homepage of the German Working Group on Data Retention.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Schäuble has been married to economist Ingeborg Schäuble since 1969. They have four children:[30] three daughters Christine, Juliane and Anna, and one son Hans-Jörg. His late brother, Thomas Schäuble (1948–2013), was a former Interior Minister of Baden-Württemberg, and an executive chairman of the Baden-Württemberg state brewery "Rothaus" from 2004 to 2013.

When Schäuble celebrated his 70th birthday at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin in September 2012, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, delivered the keynote speeches in his honor.[31]

Assassination attempt and resulting health issues[edit]

On 12 October 1990, at the age of 48, Schäuble was the target of an assassination attempt by Dieter Kaufmann, who fired three shots at Schäuble after an election campaign event attended by about 300 people in Oppenau.[32][30] He injured a bodyguard, and severely injured Schäuble's spinal cord and face.[30] It was the first attack on a political leader in the new unified Germany.[33]

Schäuble has been paralyzed and has used a wheelchair ever since. The would-be assassin was declared mentally ill by the judges, and committed to a clinic because of psychoneurosis. He was released in 2004.

Meanwhile, Schäuble forced himself back to work within three months, even while he was still living in a rehabilitation unit, learning to manoeuvre while paralysed below the waist.[34] In May 2010, on his way to Brussels for an emergency meeting of European Union finance ministers, Schäuble found himself in the intensive care unit of a Belgian hospital, battling complications from an earlier operation and an allergic reaction to a new antibiotic.[35] At that point, the German news media speculated about his resignation, and even his chances of survival.[36]

Selected works[edit]

Schäuble has written a number of books including Der Vertrag. Wie ich über die deutsche Einheit verhandelte (The treaty: How I conducted the negotiations on German unification, 1991); Und der Zukunft zugewandt (Looking to the future, 1994); Und sie bewegt sich doch (And yet it moves, 1998); Mitten im Leben (In the prime of life, 2000); Scheitert der Westen? Deutschland, Die neue Weltordnung (Is the West failing? Germany and the new world order, 2003) and Zukunft mit Maß. Was wir aus der Krise lernen können (Future of moderation: What we can learn from the crisis, 2009).[37]

  • 60 Jahre Grundgesetz: Verfassungsanspruch und Wirklichkeit, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (ed.): 60 Jahre Grundgesetz. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven (= Kulturwissenschaft interdisziplinär/Interdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Society, Vol. 4), Baden-Baden 2009


  1. ^ Quentin Peel (March 12, 2010), Man in the News: Wolfgang Schäuble Financial Times.
  2. ^ Serge Schmemann (October 13, 1990), German Interior Minister Is Shot at Political Rally New York Times.
  3. ^ "Unification Treaty is Signed Without Reference to Nazi Era". JTA. Bonn. 4 September 1990. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "Günther Krause: Wir machen aus Hausmüll Erdöl". Focus. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (12 October 1992). "Bonn Journal; Kohl's Protege Turns Into Kohl's Challenger". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Jack Ewing (January 24, 2014), Germany’s Finance Minister Praises Progress Made in Crisis Countries New York Times.
  7. ^ Quentin Peel (March 12, 2010), Man in the News: Wolfgang Schäuble Financial Times.
  8. ^ Alison Smale (October 14, 2014), French Minister Attends German Cabinet Session New York Times.
  9. ^ Quentin Peel (December 5, 2010), Wolfgang Schäuble, a profile Financial Times.
  10. ^ Jack Ewing (December 12, 2010), Germany Signals Support for Euro-Zone Members International Herald Tribune.
  11. ^ Stephen Castle and Jack Ewing (March 16, 2012), The Derby for ‘Mr. Euro,’ and Lots of Other Top Jobs, Is Just Getting Started New York Times.
  12. ^ Meireles, Luísa (22 October 2013). "Alemanha reage a declarações de Sócrates". Expresso. 
  13. ^ Quentin Peel (December 5, 2010), Wolfgang Schäuble, a profile Financial Times.
  14. ^ Stephen Castle and Jack Ewing (March 16, 2012), The Derby for ‘Mr. Euro,’ and Lots of Other Top Jobs, Is Just Getting Started New York Times.
  15. ^ spiegel.de: "Fighting Words: Schäuble Says Putin's Crimea Plans Reminiscent of Hitler" 31 Mar 2014
  16. ^ "Germany's war on the pound: You'll have to join euro... and sooner than you think, Cameron told". Daily Mail. 
  17. ^ Mark Landler (July 13, 2007), Germans Weigh Civil Rights and Public Safety New York Times.
  18. ^ Schäuble will Unschuldsvermutung nicht gelten lassen, www.tagesschau.de, 18 April 2007[dead link]
  19. ^ "German minister's proposal causes uproar", AFP (IOL), 9 July 2007.
  20. ^ German Minister Calls on EU Press to Publish Mohammed Cartoon, Deutsche Welle, 27 February 2008
  21. ^ a b c d Susanne Koelbl (28 July 2008). "Terrorism Interview with German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble: 'We Could Be Struck at Anytime'". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 
  22. ^ a b c d "Schäuble in Trouble: Interior Minister in Crisis Over 'Targeted Killings' Remark". Der Spiegel. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 29 May 2010. 
  23. ^ Slashdot | German Linux Community Boycotting LinuxTag
  24. ^ taz.de | The Man Behind the Schäuble Stencil (German)
  25. ^ Gunter Hofmann (9 August 2007). "Schäubles Nachtlektüre". Die Zeit issue 33/2007 (in German) (Hamburg). p. 7. Retrieved 29 December 2007. 
  26. ^ CCC publishes fingerprints of Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Home Secretary, Heise Online, 31 March 2008, Retrieved 16 December 2010
  27. ^ ddp/ks (21 November 2008). "Schäubles vorschlag stößt auf Welle der Empörung". Welt Online (in German). Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  28. ^ "Schäuble erntet Fassungslosigkeit". Tagesschau (in German). 
  29. ^ "Typo3 hack on German Interior Minister's web site". Heise Online. 
  30. ^ a b c Ray Moseley (13 October 1990). "German Cabinet Member Shot, Seriously Wounded By Attacker". Chicago Tribune (Berlin). Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  31. ^ Jack Ewing (April 17, 2013), Euro Zone Crisis Has Increased I.M.F.’s Power New York Times.
  32. ^ "German Interior Minister Is Shot at Political Rally". The New York Times. 13 October 1990. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  33. ^ "German Interior Minister Is Shot at Political Rally". The New York Times. 13 October 1990. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  34. ^ Quentin Peel (March 12, 2010), Man in the News: Wolfgang Schäuble Financial Times.
  35. ^ Quentin Peel (May 19, 2010), Schäuble interview: Berlin’s strictures Financial Times.
  36. ^ Nicholas Kulish and Jack Ewing (November 18, 2011), Seeing in Crisis the Last Best Chance to Unite Europe New York Times.
  37. ^ Speakers: Wolfgang Schäuble Brussels Economic Forum, 18 May 2011.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Waldemar Schreckenberger
Chief of the Chancellery
Succeeded by
Rudolf Seiters
Minister for Special Affairs