The Business On... Wolfgang Schäuble, Finance Minister, Germany

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The Independent Online

The man who saved the euro?

That's what his friends would have you believe. Mr Schäuble is thought to be the man who talked Angela Merkel down from her hard line on the indebted eurozone nations at the end of last year, paving the way for rescues such as the one recently announced for Portugal.



A friend to the likes of Greece and Ireland, then?

Well, the Greeks may not be feeling too warm about him just now. Yesterday, Mr Schäuble said he thought it was still very possible that Greece might have to restructure its debts – the polite way of saying it might default – prompting a sudden increase in its borrowing costs.



Is he right?

Probably. Despite the protestations of the Greek government it is now getting to grips with its deficit, in line with the deal agreed with the EU and the IMF, but no one quite believes the country's economy, ravaged by debt repayments, can sustain the repayments required.



It's a good job someone is prepared to speak out, then.

Mr Schäuble is your man for plain speaking. Previous pronouncements include a frank assessment of the economic policy of the US – "clueless", he said – and a dismissal of the critics of the bailouts – "they do not understand the euro".



Isn't he a bit honest for politics?

It doesn't seem to have held him back. He's held a string of senior positions in various German governments for 30 years. And he's been sympathetic to the European project since growing up close to the border with France.



But he never got the top job?

People thought he might become chancellor after Helmut Kohl in the mid-Nineties, only for the CDU to lose the 1998 election.



And if it all gets too much?

He's a tough cookie, having been confined to a wheelchair since surviving an assassination attempt in 1990 that saw him shot three times by a mentally ill man. Still, his brother runs Germany's largest brewer, so he could always turn to the drink.

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