New Role for German Finance Minister? Merkel Lobbies for Schäuble to Head Euro Group

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly pushing for her finance minister to be the next head of the Euro Group, the informal body that governs Europe's common currency. But Wolfgang Schäuble could face resistance from France over fears that Germany is becoming too powerful.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to see her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, become the Euro Group's next president.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to see her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, become the Euro Group's next president.

Jean-Claude Juncker has been open for some time now about the fact that he may not seek to renew his term as president of the Euro Group, the 17-country panel that oversees Europe's common currency. For weeks, names have been bandied about over a possible successor to Luxembourg's prime minister, who has often been at odds with Germany over Berlin's policies on the common currency. Now, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's name has been tossed into the ring, according to a report in the Friday edition of the Financial Times Deutschland.

The newspaper reports that Angela Merkel has been lobbying other European leaders to appoint Schäuble, a member of the chancellor's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, to the position. On Friday, however, the government declined to comment on the report.

Citing an insider, the Financial Times Deutschland reported that Schäuble would be the first choice to head the informal group if a European leader isn't selected. "He's got the best cards at the moment," the source said. Both Finnish President Jyrki Katainen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is also Italy's finance minister, recently turned down the position. If Schäuble were to be appointed, it would also be possible for him to continue on as Germany's finance minister.

'The Game Isn't Over Yet'

In May, Juncker, who has headed the Euro Group since 2005, signalled he wanted to leave his post. His term is scheduled to end in June. There's still a possibility he will renew his term, but the 57-year-old leader has indicated he is overworked and wants to pull back.

The Financial Times Deutschland is reporting that a decision on the post could be delayed until May because of the French presidential election. "The game isn't over yet," a high-ranking EU finance official told the newspaper, who also indicated there is French resistance to Schäuble. "Sarkozy fears that the German position could be strengthened," he said. Sources with information about the Euro Group's inside dealings told the paper that Sarkozy's opposition to Juncker, with whom he has often sparred, has softened after Merkel began promoting Schäuble as a possible successor.

Earlier this week, Schäuble said he believed that the next Euro Group president should come from a country in the euro zone with a top credit rating. That list of countries is a very short one: Besides Germany, it includes Luxembourg, Finland and the Netherlands. The so-called AAA countries would be "best suited to present a candidate," the CDU politician told a Dutch newspaper.

dsl -- with wires


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