France, Germany want European for IMF chief

22nd March 2004, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, March 22 (AFP) - Germany and France want a European to replace German Horst Koehler as head of the International Monetary Fund, in line with tradition, German Finance Minister Hans Eichel said on Monday.

BERLIN, March 22 (AFP) - Germany and France want a European to replace German Horst Koehler as head of the International Monetary Fund, in line with tradition, German Finance Minister Hans Eichel said on Monday.

Even though the issue of Koehler's successor had not officially been on the agenda of the regular Franco-German economic meeting here, it had been seen as almost inevitable that French Finance Minister Francis Mer, German counterpart Hans Eichel, Bank of France governor Christian Noyer and Bundesbank head Ernst Welteke would talk about it at their deliberations.

"We agree that it should again be a European," Eichel told a joint news conference following the meeting.

By tradition the head of the IMF is a European while the top job at the World Bank, the IMF's sister institution, goes to an American.

But some IMF officials have recently questioned the European monopoly on the position, with fund representatives from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Australia, Switzerland and Russia saying at the weekend that a candidate be chosen independent of his or her nationality.

Eichel's comments were seen as a response to such suggestions.IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler is stepping down prematurely so that he can stand as a candidate for the German presidency.

Eichel nevertheless refused to say whether Berlin and Paris had a joint candidate in mind.

Until recently outgoing Spanish Economy Minister Rodrigo Rato had been mooted as possibly the most likely successor, but German press reports said the French government was opposed to his candidacy and wanted Frenchman Jean Lemierre, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), to take the position instead.

Quizzed about the matter, Mer would only say that Lemierre's candidacy had not been broached at the Franco-German economic meeting on Monday and that there were "lots of other candidates in the running".

The matter was one that would have to be decided by the end of April, Mer added.

Time is indeed pressing, with the Europeans hoping to reach agreement on a candidate at an informal meeting of European finance ministers in Kildare, Ireland, April 2 through 4, so that a successor can be named three weeks later at the regular spring meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington.

Europeans need to reach a consensus on the matter so as not to risk a repeat of 1999, when Frenchman Michel Camdessus stepped down as head of the IMF.

A German state secretary Caio Koch-Weser had been put forward by Europe to succeed Camdessus, but Washington blocked the appointment, compelling Germany to find another candidate, Horst Koehler, then head of EBRD.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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