Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- European Central Bank Governing Council Member Nout Wellink said he would consider replacing President Jean-Claude Trichet if asked.
“If you ask me, ‘would you think about it if you were asked?’ Then the answer is: I would think about it seriously,” Wellink said at the University of Amsterdam today. “My first priority would be that we need just the best” candidate to take the helm at the ECB, he said.
The exit from the ECB race of Bundesbank President Axel Weber, previously named by economists as the frontrunner, has opened the contest to candidates from Italy’s Mario Draghi to Finland’s Erkki Liikanen and Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch. Trichet said on Feb. 21 that key qualities needed include the “capacity to react in exceptional circumstances.”
“We all know that finding successors for these kinds of positions is a complex process,” Wellink said. “It is connected to other things. It’s often part of a package deal.”
Wellink, 67, has been President of the Dutch central bank since July 1, 1997 and joined the ECB’s Governing Council in January 1999. He has chaired the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision since July 2006 and is a member of the Group of 10 Governors, the committee of central bank governors of the G-10 countries, and the Financial Stability Board.
Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager said Feb. 7 on radio BNR that Wellink would be “able to do an excellent job” as ECB president. At the same time, “it is just that the Netherlands has already provided one of the two presidents in the history of the ECB. So the Netherlands most likely won’t be named first by other countries.”
The late Wim Duisenberg, a former Dutch finance minister and central bank president, was the first head of the Frankfurt-based ECB between 1998 and 2003. Wellink’s term ends in July and Trichet’s tenure ends in October.
European leaders won’t tackle the succession to Trichet until after the euro-area has produced its comprehensive anti-crisis package in March, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Feb. 14.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power Plc on Feb. 16 offered odds of 4 to 9 on Draghi getting the job. That means a gambler betting 9 euros ($12) would win 4 euros and their stake back if Draghi were picked. Liikanen was second favorite on 2 to 1, and the bookmaker offered odds of 8 to 1 on Mersch and Wellink. Klaus Regling, head of Europe’s bailout fund, was a 20 to 1 outsider.
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