EU's Barroso gives full backing to Lagarde IMF candidacy
The head of the European Commission, a key player in the euro crisis, backed to the hilt Wednesday French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in her bid to lead the IMF despite a French judicial cloud.
"I fully endorse the candidacy of Mrs Christine Lagarde for the post of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund," commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement released moments after Lagarde announced her decision to run.
Lagarde, 55, told reporters she had reached her decision "after mature reflection" and that she would continue to run even if judges agree to investigate her over alleged conflicts of interest in a financial arbitration.
"I have a perfectly clear conscience," Lagarde said of her role in a banking scandal involving tycoon Bernard Tapie.
Barroso said Lagarde carried the respect of the international community as Europe seeks to build a consensus around a single candidate to replace fallen fellow Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the Fund.
The commission, Barroso added, "believes that the qualities of Mrs Lagarde, as well as her engagement on the strengthening of global economic governance, are indispensable to accomplish the mission of the IMF and its vital contribution to the stability of the international economy."
If appointed, she would be the first woman to head the global emergency lender.
However, a senior EU diplomat speaking shortly before Lagarde's announcement said that while a European candidate was "clearly emerging," there were differences within the 27-state bloc.
"Is there, that said, a European consensus around her name? I don't think so," the diplomat said.
Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders has indicated interest, while Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has also pushed Leszek Balcerowicz, a former Polish central bank governor and architect of post-communism economic reforms there.
Highly-placed sources had told AFP before Strauss-Kahn resigned to defend charges of attempted rape in a New York court that the top powers in Europe had given their backing to Lagarde.
© 2011 AFP