Merkel Can ‘Live Very Well’ With Ex-Aide in ECB Liaison Role

Chancellor Angela Merkel may have gotten exactly what she wanted when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi passed over one of her top debt-crisis aides and named the ECB’s first non-German chief economist.

Merkel can “live very well” with Joerg Asmussen as head of international and European relations on the ECB’s executive board and “in no way sees this as a defeat,” Georg Streiter, deputy government spokesman, said in Berlin today. “The chancellor always knew that there are no fiefdoms in the ECB and that there can’t always be a particular country that holds a particular post.”

Draghi named Belgium’s Peter Praet to the economics job yesterday rather than opting for either of the frontrunners Asmussen or France’s Benoit Coeure, sidestepping a potential conflict between the euro region’s two biggest economies. In doing so, he put a non-German in the post for the first time since the ECB was founded in 1998.

As deputy finance minister, Asmussen has been one of the policy makers at Merkel’s side during the debt crisis that began more than two years ago in Greece and is tugging at the euro area’s core. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Nov. 29 that Asmussen, 45, would be the “best person” to succeed chief economist Juergen Stark, who quit last year in protest at the ECB’s bond-buying.

Summit Role Reprised

Asmussen will represent the ECB at crisis meetings of euro-region finance officials in Brussels and will attend European leaders’ summits along with Draghi. In his former role, he attended European and Group of 20 summits with Merkel. As head of markets, Coeure takes charge of the refinancing operations that are central to the ECB’s effort to stem the debt crisis.

From the German government’s perspective, Asmussen is now installed in a “key position,” Streiter told reporters.

“The post that Asmussen has now taken on is of extraordinary importance and great significance,” he said.

Asmussen is the second member of Merkel’s inner circle to move to an executive position at the Frankfurt-based ECB. Jens Weidmann, previously her chief economic adviser, joined the central bank’s council in May after becoming the youngest head of the German Bundesbank at age 43.

Weidmann and Asmussen studied with economist Axel Weber, who pulled out of the race for the ECB presidency in February and quit as Bundesbank president to return to academic life.

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