Germany has given its nod of approval to the appointment of Phil Murphy as the next US ambassador to Germany. SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that the Federal Office of the German President has issued a so-called "agrément" for Murphy this week. In diplomatic jargon, it means that the country has given its official nod of approval for the suggested ambassador to the country. It's highly unusual for a country to reject a candidate and only happens in incidences where a host country has considerable objections.
Apparently there were no objections to Murphy, 52, a former banker at Goldman Sachs. He could be officially named by Obama as his pick for Berlin as early as this week. Obama has already announced his postings for other important European cities like Paris and London.
The fact that it has taken so long to officially name Murphy, whose Berlin ambitions were first reported in May , has created an atmosphere of astonishment in diplomatic circles.
Acknowledging how awkward it has been not to have an ambassador in place yet nearly six months into the Obama presidency, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the director of policy planning at the State Department jokingly quipped during a speech at the American Academy in Berlin on Tuesday that the pick for Germany would "be in place before the end of the first term." The remark sparked laughter throughout the room. "Everybody in Washington knows how important a post this is," she added. "It's not just because the Russians have a good ambassador, but because our own relationship with Germany is very important."
Sources close to the White House have attributed the delays to a comprehensive new review for top posts in the Obama administration. As a result of a tax scandal earlier this year, this procedure has become even stricter. In Murphy's case, there was a lot to review. During his more than two decades at Goldman Sachs, he built up a fortune estimated at several hundred million dollars. More recently, he served as the Democratic Party's national finance chairman, helping to fill the party's coffers.
After his official naming, the US Senate must still confirm Murphy's appointment. Murphy, who has a good knowledge of Germany from his time at Goldman Sachs and also speaks a bit of the language, is cautiously optimistic about the appointment. In an e-mail to "family and friends" a few weeks ago, he spoke of a "great" and "exciting step" and said he would be happy to get back in touch once the drawn-out process was completed.