German minister tipped for top euro job
(MUNICH) - Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to be drawn Friday on reports Germany's finance minister could be the next head of the Eurogroup but praised his skills and influence in the key eurozone body.
The Financial Times Deutschland reported that Merkel had proposed Wolfgang Schaeuble, 69, to lead the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers when the current president, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, steps down in June.
But both Merkel and Schaeuble declined to add to the speculation.
Speaking to reporters after meeting top bosses in the southern city of Munich, Merkel said: "I can naturally say that Mr Schaeuble is an outstanding finance minister who of course also plays an important role in the Eurogroup."
"Other than that, there are a host of personnel decisions in the European Union that I do not wish to comment on here. They have not yet been taken and therefore I can say nothing about this topic today," she added.
For his part, the minister said: "We have other issues at the moment. Speculation about personnel matters might be interesting for the media, but there are other issues facing us.
"If Mr Juncker is no longer available for the post, then we're going to have to look at this question in time. But that is all for today," Schaeuble told reporters at a news conference in Berlin.
Schaeuble was seen in the media as having the best bid after other potential candidates such as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said they weren't interested in the job.
The Eurogroup brings together the 17 finance ministers from the eurozone bloc, as well as the European Commission's top finance official and the president of the European Central Bank.
Meeting at least once a month, it is the main decision-making body in the eurozone and plays a key role in monitoring the public finances of its members.
A European diplomat close to the matter told AFP that "Angela Merkel has canvassed opinion to see what the chances are for a Wolfgang Schaeuble option" but stressed that "everything remains open".
This source said that Schaeuble's bid would be complicated by the fact there are already several Germans in top EU finance positions.
Klaus Regling is the current head of the EU's bailout fund while another German, Werner Hoyer, is head of the European Investment Bank, the diplomat pointed out.
A third German, Thomas Mirow, is running for a second term as head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
"The Germans can't have everything. They will have to give up some positions," the source said. "Certain countries will say that there are a lot of Germans."
There is thought to be resistance to a German head of the Eurogroup in Paris.
One option would be to stick to the status quo and persuade Juncker, a veteran European statesman, to hang on for another term to steer the eurozone through the choppy waters of the debt crisis, this source said.
"The first names to emerge in this sort of competition are often not the ones that end up winning," said the diplomat.
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