France, Germany in tug-of-war over top ECB job: report

29th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

France and Germany are engaged in a fierce behind-the-scenes battle over the key position of chief economist at the European Central Bank, the business daily Handelsblatt reported on Tuesday.

Until now, Berlin had assumed that its number two at the finance ministry, Joerg Asmussen, would automatically take over from compatriot Juergen Stark when he steps down from the ECB's executive board at the end of the year.

The position of chief economist has traditionally been in German hands since the ECB was set up.

But Paris also has it eyes on the strategically crucial position and is campaigning for Benoit Coeure -- chief economist of the French economy and finance ministry and number two at the French treasury -- to take over, the Handelsblatt reported, quoting French government and central bank sources.

"Berlin and Paris are both laying equal claim to the post. It's a dead heat," it quoted the sources as saying.

In a shock announcement in September, 63-year-old Stark, who has been the ECB's chief economist since 2006, said he would step down before the end of his term of office in May 2014.

Stark cited "personal reasons" but it is widely believed he is quitting over the ECB's controversial programme of buying bonds of those countries -- such as Greece -- who find themselves unable to drum up financing on the markets.

© 2011 AFP

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