Bloomberg News

France’s Coeure Backed by Euro-Area Ministers for ECB Board

December 01, 2011

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- France’s Benoit Coeure has been backed by euro-area finance ministers to succeed Italy’s Lorenzo Bini Smaghi on the European Central Bank’s Executive Board.

“We unanimously agreed on Benoit Coeure,” Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the group of finance chiefs from the 17 euro nations, said at a press briefing late yesterday after a meeting in Brussels. “He has all the necessary qualities for success on the ECB board.” Coeure’s nomination must now be approved by European Union leaders, which is likely to happen when they meet on Dec. 8.

Coeure, currently chief economist at the French Treasury, would give Europe’s second-largest economy a voice on the ECB board, which it has lacked since Jean-Claude Trichet’s term as the central bank’s president ended last month. France supported Italian Mario Draghi taking over from Trichet on condition Italy get Bini Smaghi to step down early to make way for a Frenchman in the ECB’s six-member executive.

Bini Smaghi on Nov. 11 resigned from his post, effective at the end of the year, and will join Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs in 2012.

Bini Smaghi’s departure will mean four ECB board members have left this year. In addition to Trichet and Austria’s Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, whose term ended in May, Germany’s Juergen Stark said he will step down at the end of the year in protest at the central bank’s bond purchases. His term was due to end in May, 2014.

Chief Economist Role

Stark will be replaced by German Deputy Finance Minister Joerg Asmussen. Germany wants Asmussen to take Stark’s role as the ECB’s chief economist, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said yesterday. A German has held the position since the bank’s founding in 1998.

The Handelsblatt newspaper earlier reported that France may push for Coeure to take the chief economist post, without saying where it got the information.

Schaeuble and French Finance Minister Francois Baroin issued a joint statement in Brussels last night saying it’s up to the ECB to decide on the roles of its board members.

“We trust that Mario Draghi and the Executive Board will decide what is best for the ECB, in full compliance with its mandate,” the ministers said.

Coeure, 42, joined the Treasury in 1995 after working for Insee, France’s national statistics office. By 1999 he became head of the ministry’s foreign-exchange market and economic- policies unit, before moving on to Agence France Tresor, where he gained market experience handling sovereign debt sales. He became deputy chief executive of the AFT in 2002 and was appointed chief executive in 2006.

--With assistance from Jonathan Stearns and Rainer Buergin in Brussels. Editors: Matthew Brockett, James Hertling

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Brussels at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net


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