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'You should not overrate it': Departing Schaeuble plays down his impact on Europe

Key Points
  • Wolfgang Schaeuble is attending his last Eurogroup.
  • The German was a supporter of austerity for post-crisis Europe.
  • Tells CNBC his impact on Europe should not be overrated.
Outgoing German finance minister: Europe 'has made great progress' but debt concerns linger

Outgoing German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Tuesday that he had not "decisively shaped" Europe's future during the last eight years, despite having helped to make progress to reduce economic risk.

Schaeuble has served as Germany's federal minister of finance since 2009, in the second and third Angela Merkel-led governments. The current Eurogroup and Ecofin meeting in Brussels will be his last before he steps down.

When asked by CNBC Tuesday about his own contribution to the European project, Schaeuble said he understood that others would disagree with him.

"If you think you have done everything right in any time of your political life, then you didn't understand it correctly and that is also what I try to make clear to myself," he said. "You always tend to think everything you do is correct, but naturally freedom is based on the principle that there are different opinions and that other opinions are just as legitimate as your own."

The advocate of austerity further played down the importance of his contribution.

"There is little sense to analyze your past when you take a new step in your life," Schaeuble said. "After all, it is not the case that in the past eight years the world's history has been decisively shaped by the fact that some person was finance minister in some country. You should not overrate it."

Schaeuble added that politicians had made great progress in the stabilization of the European economy but high levels of debt meant that vigilance needed to be maintained.

"That is precisely the reason why the central banks and us — central bank governors and finance ministers are having regular debates during the G20 process — work on how we can minimize potential risks resulting from this situation. That is what I have worked for in the past eight years, and I think we have made good progress," he said.

Following the German elections in September, Schaeuble was nominated by the majority CDU/CSU parliamentary group to be the next president of the Bundestag.