22nd Oct 2020

Berlin scrambles for new EU bank candidate

  • Axel Weber - the man at the centre of this week's confusion (Photo: INSM)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to ask Axel Weber to resign from his position as Bundesbank president on Friday (11 February), with the central banker's reported withdrawal from the ECB presidency race leaving Berlin scrambling to find a new candidate.

Leaks suggest Mr Weber conveyed his lack of interest in taking over from Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet this October to Bundesbank colleges on Tuesday evening, stunning finance officials across Europe who had seen the hawkish central banker as the frontrunner for the top ECB post.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The news is also perceived as a major set-back for Ms Merkel who was known to be angling for a German takeover of the ECB presidency in order to shore up her citizens' faith in the euro currency and the various rescue plans to save it.

Many Germans have been angered by what they see as tough sacrifices to save heavily indebted peripheral eurozone members such as Greece and Ireland, with attention now turning to other potential candidates.

The confusion in Berlin could strengthen the chances of experienced Italian central bank governor Mario Draghi, although his southern member state origins were seen as a weakness to his bid.

With a relatively light European Commission portfolio and failure to field candidates for other senior EU jobs, Berlin is thought to have been aiming for the ECB post for some time.

Potential German replacements for Mr Weber at the Bundesbank, providing a platform to run for the ECB presidency, include Ms Merkel's own economic adviser, Jens Weidmann. Another possible candidate, Klaus Regling who heads the European financial stability facility, has never been a central banker.

A controversial figure who openly spoke out against the ECB's extraordinary decision in May to start buying sovereign eurozone bonds, Mr Weber was nevertheless thought to enjoy tacit support for the ECB post from Paris.

"I am dumbfounded," said French finance minister Christine Lagarde, although the prospect of the hawkish central banker taking over this October is known to have created concern among many of her compatriots.

Mr Weber's likely departure is being met with relief "not among the Germans, but every country from Italy to Greece, probably," Marco Valli, chief euro zone economist at UniCredit in Milan, told the New York Times. "The French are not particularly sad."

Choosing a smooth communicator, as well as a competent banker, will be a key consideration for Ms Merkel if she does, as expected, ask Mr Weber to step aside on Friday, say analysts.

There is still a slim chance the chancellor could try and persuade Mr Weber to run for the ECB presidency post, rather than move to the private sector as he is reportedly considering.

The ECB's enlarged role as a result of the financial and eurozone debt crises has placed it under a closer spotlight as market participants seek to predict the bank's next move, with this week's confusion adding to suspicions Mr Weber lacks the necessary communication skills.

Bungled messages from EU leaders have also been blamed by many analysts for exacerbating the eurozone's difficulties over the past year.

Green Deal

EU farming deal attacked by Green groups

EU agriculture ministers at around 4am on Wednesday reached a common position on the bloc's farming policy post-2020, including ring-fencing part of the CAP budget for initiatives that protect the environment - but with much flexibility for member states.

France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder

Muslim NGOs targeted by the France's retaliatory response to the brutal murder of a schoolteacher claim the government is labelling "innocent Muslims as 'Islamists" just to be able to say that they are doing something".


All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter

The European Court of Justice is currently facing a major question: can religious freedom coexist with animal welfare? The decision of whether religious slaughter can continue is expected in a matter of weeks.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions


All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter

The European Court of Justice is currently facing a major question: can religious freedom coexist with animal welfare? The decision of whether religious slaughter can continue is expected in a matter of weeks.


EU money used by neo-Nazi to promote Holocaust denial

A prominent Holocaust-denier has made the cover of an EU-funded newsletter, which was published by an avowed German neo-Nazi with a lengthy criminal record. The lack of clear labelling of the MEP behind it violates European Parliament rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us