German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, a leading but controversial candidate to take the helm of the European Central Bank, pushed back in a Financial Times interview on the idea that the nationality of the institution’s head is an important consideration.
‘This discussion about a candidate’s nationality is ‘completely absurd. I mean, would you have asked if this institution is right for an Italian?’
The jockeying to replace Italy’s Mario Draghi, whose nonrenewable eight-year term ends next year, is fully under way. The fact of the matter is that the successor will be determined in a high-stakes game of financial diplomacy and musical chairs that will see the bank’s top posts parceled out in a way that balances geographic rivalries within the eurozone.
Earlier this week, Spain’s finance minister, Luis de Guindos, was nominated by eurozone finance ministers to serve as the No. 2 official at the ECB—a move that was seen as opening the door to a German ECB chief.
Weidmann‘s opposition to the ECB’s quantitative-easing program and, earlier, to Draghi’s pledge to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro EURUSD, -0.2757% is thought to provoke unease in southern eurozone countries.
In the interview, FT correspondent Claire Jones pushes back on Draghi’s objections, noting correctly that the idea of a central banker from Italy—renowned for runaway inflation in pre-euro days—had indeed provoked heartburn in Berlin.
Indeed, Draghi, the former head of the Bank of Italy, only secured the job after Axel Weber, Weidmann’s predecessor at the Bundesbank, bowed out, sparking a short burst of market turmoil and disappointing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.