November 21, 2012
Perhaps finance ministers, like fine wines, take time to mature.
For the seventh year, the Financial Times has ranked the fiscal masters of the EU’s 19 largest economies on their financial and political skills. In 2012, the challenges were as tough as at any time since the eurozone debt crisis hit in late 2009. Under pressure from financial markets over public finances, and facing the prospect of the monetary union falling apart, politicians and central bankers finally began putting in place structures and reforms that they hope will secure its long-term future. Greece’s fate remains uncertain; talks on its debt collapsed on Wednesday.
This year’s winner is one of the continent’s longest-serving leaders. Wolfgang Schäuble has survived at the top of Germany’s political system for three decades – and for him 2012 might prove a vintage year. “More than any other finance minister, Mr Schäuble articulated his vision for a more integrated Europe,” says Erik Nielsen, a member of the expert jury and chief economist at Italian bank UniCredit.
Mr Schäuble’s contribution to resolving the crisis is not without controversy. Germany’s resilient economy, the continent’s largest, acted as an anchor of stability. But Berlin’s frosty, Eiswein stance on fiscal austerity and its reluctance to bail out weaker capitals alarmed politicians and economists elsewhere.