SPIEGEL Interview with Axel Weber: 'It Is Not Important Which Nation Puts Forward the ECB President'

Part 2: 'My Motives Are Respected and Accepted'

Bundesbank President Axel Weber: "My motives are respected and accepted." Zoom
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Bundesbank President Axel Weber: "My motives are respected and accepted."

SPIEGEL: Your withdrawal is humiliating for Chancellor Merkel in Europe. Has Germany's position been weakened when it comes to future decisions about the euro?

Weber: I don't see it that way. Ultimately it is not important which nation puts forward the president. People are needed who are credible, embody a culture of stability and can convey this to the people of Europe. Central banks and governments got closer together during the crisis, and that was necessary. But now it's time to create more distance again.

SPIEGEL: Is it completely irrelevant whether the next president comes from southern or northern Europe?

Weber: It isn't about sending representatives of national interests to a European body. The ECB governing council is a European body consisting of Europeans from different nations.

SPIEGEL: What's next at the Bundesbank?

Weber: We have done our homework very well. The German economy is running smoothly and German banks have largely been stabilized. Now it's time to bring in younger people. The Bundesbank executive board was often staffed with people who were nearing retirement age. I don't think that is a future-oriented policy.

SPIEGEL: Merkel's economic adviser, Jens Weidmann, is seen as a favorite to succeed you. Can he establish the necessary distance from the government?

Weber: The choice of a successor is a decision for the German government in which I don't want to get involved. We need a signal of rejuvenation. Too often, politicians have seen the Bundesbank as an institution where positions can be allocated based on the relative strengths of different political parties. We need board members for the Bundesbank who can contribute their expertise to international bodies.

SPIEGEL: Does that apply to Jens Weidmann?

Weber: Mr. Weidmann is an excellent economist. I worked with him on the German Council of Economic Experts (which advises the government on economic issues) and at the Bundesbank. Despite his young age, he has indisputably accumulated a great deal of experience and is an absolute professional. Accusing him of being too close to politics is unjustified. And even if it sounds flippant: The Bundesbank only "lent" him to the German government. He would carry out his duties well in any position, right from the first day.

SPIEGEL: There has been a great deal of public speculation over what you plan to do after leaving the Bundesbank. What are your plans?

Weber: I am not going to discuss what I intend to do after serving my term. If I do go to a financial institution, my colleagues on the Bundesbank executive board will decide how much time will have to have passed since my departure. It's normally half a year. However, I certainly won't start a new job until 2012.

SPIEGEL: As head of the Bundesbank, you possess insider knowledge of private-sector banks. Observers have talked of a conflict of interests should you take a job with a commercial bank. Don't you have fundamental moral misgivings about taking a leadership position in the private sector?

Weber: Let me say this again: I'm still a long way from deciding what to do next professionally. There are clear rules, especially for central bankers, on how to handle potential conflicts of interests.

SPIEGEL: When will you make your decision?

Weber: First of all, I'll still be in this position until the end of April, and I have a full schedule. After I leave, I am going to allow myself a time-out. Besides, my professorship at the University of Cologne will also be reactivated. I was merely on leave there. I don't want to take on any new job until next year. And what happens in the future remains to be seen.

SPIEGEL: There are rumors that you will replace Josef Ackermann as the CEO of Deutsche Bank. Is there anything to that?

Weber: I will not become involved in speculation in any way.

SPIEGEL: Specifically, did Ackermann ask you whether you would like to be his successor?

Weber: As I said, as long as I am in office, I will not discuss my professional future. Not with anyone. Starting in May, I will enjoy my time off and decide what happens next.

SPIEGEL: Could you imagine working as the head of a major bank?

Weber: This question simply doesn't arise for me. I will have an active summer and, for example, will spend a prolonged period abroad again. In the next days and weeks, I will be focusing on an effective transition at the Bundesbank.

SPIEGEL: Do you feel damaged by the discussion of recent days?

Weber: I had made a promise to the chancellor, and I stuck to it. But I can explain why I am leaving, and I have no doubt that the public will ultimately understand the motives and the timing of my decision.

SPIEGEL: The chancellor clearly has little sympathy for your decision.

Weber: That's your interpretation. Judging by my very positive conversation on Friday with Ms. Merkel and Mr. Schäuble, my motives are respected and accepted.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Weber, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Armin Mahler and Christoph Pauly.

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