CDU leader says currency union will go ahead Germans defend currency union against sceptics

Wolfgang Schauble, a potential Chancellor, tells Steve Crawshaw why he believes EMU will succeed

Bonn - "Germany has taken many decisions since 1945 - joining Nato, for example - without taking notice of opinion polls. We can go against current majorities in opinion polls. And, afterwards, we go on to win the elections."

Thus, Wolfgang Schauble, the man nominated to succeed Chancellor Helmut Kohl, dismisses the widespread suspicion of a single European currency, which would get rid of the beloved German mark.

Perhaps because he was talking to a British newspaper, Mr Schauble could afford to be blunter than he would dare to be on German television.

Speaking ahead of the party conference of the governing Christian Democrats, which begins today, Mr Schauble refused to budge a centimetre towards the sceptics: "We have signed and ratified the Maastricht treaty [ie, including a timetable for monetary union]. We're committed to it. And opinion polls change nothing in that."

In an interview with the Independent, Mr Schauble was determined to dispel any doubts about the feasibility of monetary union, a subject which will be on the agenda this week. Mr Schauble still wants to convert the non- believers: "It's a question of political priorities. In Germany, too, it hasn't been easy. In the British press, it was considered impossible that Germany would fulfil the criteria for monetary union [because of the huge debt burden of German unification]. But we managed. We think if others make efforts, they can do it".

Popular German doubts, he argued, will be dispelled in the end: "We must make it clear that a European currency will play a stabilising role."

He is not bothered by the furore unleashed last month by the Finance Minister, Theo Waigel, who was dismissive about Italy's ability to meet the targets. The Italian government was furious and the lira went into free fall. But Mr Schauble, Germany's chief strategist on Europe, insists that Mr Waigel was merely stating the obvious.

Mr Waigel's comments to a closed parliamentary committee were buried in an official parliamentary newsletter. He was sceptical about Italy fulfilling the Maastricht criteria on inflation, debt burden, interest rates and budget deficit, by 1999.

The Italian government must have known that officials in Bonn have been making the same point for months. None the less, the drama exploded when a Reuters news agency dispatch highlighted Mr Waigel's remarks. The lira collapsed and Italy was enraged.

German officials suggest that Mr Waigel's comments may have forced the Italians to concentrate harder on the need to meet the criteria. Mr Schauble insists that the gospel according to Bonn remains constant: "First we want currency union to begin, as agreed in the Maastricht treaty. Second, we don't want the stability criteria to be weakened."

Mr Schauble, who is coming to Britain to lecture in Oxford next month, will probably have meetings with John Major and the leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair, during his stay.

He says he is not worried by the fear of Europe in some sections of the British Conservative Party, as was highlighted by recent remarks by the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo. He insists on Mr Major's Euro-friendliness, and says: "John Major has won through." He is optimistic also about Labour's pro-European policies, although he fears Labour might reduce its Euro-excitement in power: "There may be a difference between what a Labour leader says as an opposition leader and what he says as a prime minister."

The 52-year-old Mr Schauble is leader of the parliamentary floor group of the Christian Democrats. However, he wields more power than many ministers, probably including the Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel.

A few days after German unification, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt, which left him wheelchair-bound.

There is a sotto voce debate within the Christian Democrats, about whether a wheelchair-bound Chancellor could do the job. More striking, however, is the extent to which his chair is now ignored in Germany.

Mr Schauble is not a man to be patronised. He drily notes: "The job of the federal chancellor is not designed for the reintegration of the handicapped. That must be acknowledged." He regards debate on the subject of physical difficulties as "legitimate". As he himself points out, however, he has already demonstrated that it is possible to carry out a demanding, high-profile job from a wheelchair. In that respect, he hopes that his presence in such a prominent post may have set an example that employers and society can heed.

Theoretically, he is still the successor-in-waiting to Helmut Kohl. Still, Mr Kohl, who said last year that he would not stand again in 1998, has long since backtracked from that position. Mr Schauble insists he is not bothered: "I'm not in a waiting room. I'm in my own room. I like what I do. And I've never regretted it for one minute," he said. Mr Schauble is not a man to say no to the Big One: "Being Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany wouldn't be boring, that's for sure." But he insists: "The question hasn't come up. And I'm glad that it hasn't."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable