EIt amused him “almost a little,” writes Wolfgang Schäuble at the point in his memoirs about a coup against Angela Merkel. His age, then 73, was known and he had been paralyzed for more than a quarter of a century. He had previously read many obituaries about himself, and now, in the midst of the refugee crisis, he was supposed to take the plunge into the Chancellery.

“That was somewhat absurd,” says Schäuble, who served Merkel as a minister for a long time. The “Stern” published excerpts on Wednesday and the book will be published in a few days.

Schäuble recalls that at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016, the former Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, in his anger over Merkel's migration policy, called on him to overthrow the Chancellor and take her place.

Schäuble, who died at the end of last year, wrote that he “decisively” rejected this. This was done in the belief that “the fall of our own chancellor could only harm our party in the long term.” This was his understanding of loyalty, “which perhaps seems a little antiquated by today’s standards.”

CSU criticism did not create any coup dynamics

If Schäuble were still alive, he would probably have been amused by the storm in a teacup that the passage of his memories triggered on Wednesday. Firstly, because Stoiber's request and Schäuble's rejection were already reported in the media in 2016. Secondly, because it was really absurd at the time.

The CSU ran with all its might against Merkel because of her refugee policy, but not only no one in their ranks, but certainly not in the CDU, offered to overthrow the Chancellor. Not that there wasn't any criticism of Merkel back then. But the CSU's criticism did not create a coup dynamic, but rather ensured that the Christian Democratic ranks closed.

More interesting than what Schäuble reports about the facts at the time is the judgment he makes about Merkel and her refugee policy, looking back and with his own end in mind. That reads a bit as if he didn't want to throw her off the throne after the end of her chancellorship, but at least wanted to leave a few serious scratches on his legs.

Wanted to overthrow Merkel: Edmund Stoiber (right) together with her and Wolfgang Schäuble on June 12, 2002 in Berlin

Wanted to overthrow Merkel: Edmund Stoiber (right) together with her and Wolfgang Schäuble on June 12, 2002 in Berlin

Image: Picture Alliance

Schäuble packages his criticism in benevolent statements. “Merkel actually knew at every stage that she could rely on me,” the book reads. He also defends the Chancellor's decision not to close the German borders to the many refugees coming from Hungary on the night of September 4th to 5th, 2015. He even approves of their formulations “We can do it” and that it must still be possible to show “a friendly face” to the people in need who are striving to come to Germany.

Schäuble: Merkel traveled to Turkey too late

But all of this seems like an attempt at a very fundamental criticism. Their “strong statements” should have been “accompanied by a multitude of other measures and efforts to make it clear that this unique emergency measure was irrepeatable.” Schäuble describes – in more detail than Stoiber's push to overthrow the chancellor – how he tried early on to get Merkel to talk to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because only with the help of Turkey was it possible to effectively limit the flow of refugees.

“My goal was to persuade the Chancellor not to just wait for developments in order to react too late, but rather to act in a planned manner and keep the reins of action in her hand.” Unfortunately, he was not able to achieve much. When Merkel finally traveled to Turkey, it was “unfortunately too late”.

This is much more than an objection to Merkel's actions in a single political field. The fundamental criticism is that she sought too much compromise. “In my opinion, she would have had completely different options to really lead politically and not just react,” writes Schäuble. “Merkel’s leadership style has strained my loyalty.”

Even more fundamental is the criticism that Merkel has hidden the extent of the challenge from people in the refugee crisis. “Unlike the Chancellor, I thought it was right to give the citizens pure wine and make it clear that working for the refugees also involves costs and sacrifices. Appeals alone are of no use.” Schäuble writes that he was “occasionally frustrated” that Merkel remained “resistant to advice in some respects”.

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