Every drama needs a great baddie and in the latest act of the Greek crisis Wolfgang Schäuble the 72-year-old German finance minister has emerged as the standout villain: critics see him as a ruthless technocrat who strong-armed an entire country and now plans to strip it of its assets. One part of the bailout deal in particular has scandalised many Europeans: the proposed creation of a fund designated to cherrypick €50bn (£35bn) worth of Greek public assets and privatise them to pay the country’s debts. But the key to understanding Germany’s strategy is that for Schäuble there is nothing new about any of this.It was 25 years ago during the summer of 1990 that Schäuble led the West German delegation negotiating the terms of the unification with formerly communist East Germany. A doctor of law he was West Germany’s interior minister and one of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s closest advisers – the go-to guy whenever things got tricky.
The West Germans on the other side of the table had the momentum the money and a plan: everything the state of East Germany owned was to be absorbed by the West German system and then quickly sold to private investors to recoup some of the money East Germany would need in the coming years.
In other words: Schäuble and his team wanted collateral.