Berlin (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a compatriot as the next president of the European Commission, local media reported Wednesday, apparently backing away from a demand that the European Central Bank installs a German as head.
“The highest priority for Merkel is no longer the ECB but rather the Commission,” reported the business daily Handelsblatt.
The paper said Germany’s leader views the head of the Commission as more politically relevant than the same role within the ECB.
Germany’s candidate for the central bank role is the current head of Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, and it is thought he has damaged his chances of the top job with his repeated criticism of the ECB.
He has been an outspoken critic of current ECB chief Mario Draghi’s handling of economic crises in southern, poorer European states to the detriment of eurozone powerhouse Germany.
Several key posts within EU institutions will turn over in 2019, including the position of Commission president, currently held by Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Junker.
Succession gossip has increased in recent weeks, with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s name often mentioned.
Handelsblatt reported that Berlin is considering several officials to nominate for the post, including economy minister Peter Altmaier and defence minister Ursula von der Leyen.
Weidmann, a longtime sceptic of the ECB’s tactic of ultra-low interest rates and massive bond purchases, said in March the bank must brace itself for a new downturn in a currently booming eurozone.
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