Germany's Asmussen seen headed for ECB board

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 10, 2011 6:53 AM
Germany's Asmussen seen headed for ECB board

By Annika Breidthardt

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - German deputy finance minister Joerg Asmussen could be proposed as early as Saturday as a replacement for Juergen Stark on the European Central Bank's executive board, with the backing of senior EU officials.

Asmussen will be at a 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET) news conference with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on the sidelines of Group of Eight talks in the French Mediterranean port of Marseille, with Stark's replacement the big issue of the day.

Sources told Reuters on Friday that Asmussen could be named to replace Stark -- whose resignation revealed a deep split at the ECB over its bond-buying activities -- a choice that looked set to win strong support among euro zone officials.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, said Asmussen would be an excellent choice for the ECB board.

"The German government will make a proposal in the course of today or tomorrow. In the case that it is Asmussen it would be a very good decision," Juncker told reporters in Marseille.

"The euro cannot be saved by one person but he would be without a doubt the right person."

Asmussen, who has been a key figure in Germany's policy response to the euro zone debt crisis, declined to comment to reporters as he left his hotel in Marseille earlier on Saturday morning.

G8 finance officials met a day after Group of Seven finance chiefs in Marseille pledged a coordinated response to the faltering global economic recovery but offered few specifics to appease shaky financial markets.

A respected economist who studied under former Bundesbank chief Axel Weber, Asmussen has moved rapidly up the career ladder at the German finance ministry, moving from junior advisor in 1996 to deputy finance minister just 12 years later.

His possible nomination by Germany would have to be discussed with Juncker and other Eurogroup colleagues before it could be approved.

A euro zone central bank source said on Friday that Stark was angry at being passed over when Weber quit the German central bank earlier this year, clearly also unhappy with the ECB bond-buying programme.

The ECB has faced sharp criticism in Germany for buying bonds -- a move many here see as taking the bank into the fiscal arena and threatening its core role of fighting inflation.

(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott; Writing by Catherine Bremer, editing by Mike Peacock)