German FM set to stay centre stage in euro crisis
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Two years ago, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was on the point of giving up his role as iron fist in the euro zone debt crisis, but the 70-year-old champion of closer European integration now seems likely to remain on Europe's centre stage.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who made her independent-minded and famously irritable former rival finance minister in 2009, is expected to reappoint him if, as widely forecast, she wins a third term in the September 22 parliamentary poll.
Differences in their visions of Europe may curtail some of his plans, but the enormous clout he wields among European policymakers dealing with the four-year-old euro zone debt crisis shows no sign of waning.
"German hegemony of the Eurogroup has been growing over the last two years and is increasing almost by the day now," said an official who sits with Schaeuble in the 17-member group. Such is his importance that the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Largarde, broke off from marathon talks to agree a bailout for Cyprus in March to make a late night visit to his office herself.
"Nobody wanted to imagine what would happen if he had left the building in a huff," a source close to the negotiations told Reuters. "The volcano was not allowed to erupt."
Merkel needs Schaeuble not only for his sharp intellect and as a contrast to her power politics, but to woo the party's conservative south-western power base.
Wheel-chair bound since a mentally ill man shot him in 1990, he is one of Germany's most popular politicians and has hinted strongly that he wants to stay on.
Just two years ago, the man who negotiated German unification offered to resign when recovery from an operation was longer and tougher than expected. He was also badly shaken by the deaths of his two brothers, in 2011 and early this year. But he has returned to full health and works often gruelling hours. "I still enjoy politics otherwise I would not stand as a candidate again," he told Reuters.