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24th Jan 2021

Juncker backs German finance minister for eurozone post

  • Wolgang Schauble is already the main decision maker in the Eurogroup (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said he "fully supports" German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble to become his successor when his mandate runs out at the end of May.

According to the Luxembourg Prime Minister - who has chaired meetings of eurozone finance ministers ever since the eurogroup was formalised in 2004 - his successor should be someone who can listen to others and has a deep knowledge of the eurozone issues. "

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In this respect, he would be the perfect match," Juncker said about Schauble on Monday (30 April) during a debate in Hamburg organised by Der Spiegel magazine.

The 69-year old Christian-Democrat is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel and a strong advocate of budgetary discipline in southern countries.

Some diplomats have expressed concerns his appointment would be too strong a signal that Germany is running the single currency. But others say there is no better way to turn a "hawk" into a moderate than by putting him at the helm of the ministers' group, where he has to mediate among 17 different positions.

If Schauble gets the job, Germany would need to give up its chairmanship of the eurozone bail-out funds, however.

Currently the temporary European Financial Stability Facility is being chaired by Klaus Regling, a former head of the European Commission's financial affairs directorate.

The German economist had hoped to stay on as head of the permanent bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism, when it enters life on 1 July, as most of the EFSF staff will be taken over by the ESM. But with Schauble at the Eurogroup, Spain and France would claim the EFSF/ESM chairmanship for them.

Meanwhile, Finance ministers from all 27 member states meeting on Wednesday (2 May) are to try and agree on a single EU candidate for the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as French, British and Polish candidates float around to succeed Thomas Mirow - a German who wants to stay on but has no backing from Berlin.

EU aspirant Serbia has also put forward a candidate for the pan-European bank.

Finnish PM could replace Juncker as Eurogroup chief

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has invited select EU leaders and ministers to a "winter retreat" in Finland in a potential lobbying opportunity for the top job in the eurozone.

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A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

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A senior EU diplomat said Poland and Hungary should lift their veto or give a signal they are willing to do by Tuesday - otherwise there will be alternative plans for a recovery fund with the other 25 member states.

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