New German finmin wins over EU colleagues

November 10, 2009

New German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is winning over his European Union colleagues with a commitment to reduce Germany’s public deficit at his debut meeting of EU finance officials.************ “I have great confidence in colleague Schaeuble,” Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos said on arrival for the Ecofin meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.******Germany expects its deficit to hit 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, and roughly 6 percent in 2010, double the European Union limit of 3 percent.******But the veteran of German politics, a tax lawyer, convinced other EU finance ministers he would put Germany’s public finances in order. The 67-year-old told reporters he expected the Commission to propose that Germany would get it deficit within the EU limit in 2013.******”I think when one listens to Minister Schaeuble, one immediately has the impression one is listening to a very credible politician,” European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said after a meeting late on Monday of euro area finance officials, the so-called Eurogroup.******Schaeuble, in a wheelchair since he was shot and nearly killed by a mentally ill man at a campaign rally in 1990, is seen as one of the most talented German politicians of his generation and may have become chancellor himself had he not become ensnared in the funding scandal that damaged his Christian Democrats (CDU) and former mentor Helmut Kohl a decade ago.******He was not Merkel’s first choice for finance minister but by picking him last month she electrified German media because Schaeuble is expected to be a forceful and possibly uncomfortable presence for Merkel in a cabinet largely devoid of strong personalities.******Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado said Schaeuble showed a strong commitment to respecting the EU’s deficit rules, enshrined in the Stability and Growth Pact. “I don’t think there was any doubt on our part as to his absolute commitment to comply with the provisions of that pact,” she said after Monday’s Eurogroup.

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