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Fekter Says Eurogroup Chief Must Be Head of Government

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Austria’s Finance Minister Maria Fekter said the next leader of the group of euro-area finance ministers has to be a head of his or her government in order to have the necessary authority.

“The suitable successor for Juncker ought to be head of government, so he can be the first among equals and not a finance minister, who then gets vetoed by his head of government,” Fekter told reporters in Vienna late yesterday, declining to name potential candidates.

The person also should have financial expertise, she said, adding that “he should be from a country that isn’t currently in a program, but which is stable and in good condition so his chairmanship has an enormous credibility.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier this month that he doesn’t want to continue to lead the group of euro-area finance ministers after his term ends this summer.

When asked whether she’d consider the position herself, Fekter pointed out that in addition to not leading her government, “there were AAA countries that haven’t been downgraded.”

Austria, together with France, lost its AAA rating at Standard & Poor’s in January. The two countries’ outlooks on their top ratings were also put on “negative” at Moody’s Investors Service in February. Germany, Finland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands still hold AAA ratings.

Fekter’s criteria suggests that she may favor Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen as Juncker’s successor, as Katainen headed Finland’s finance ministry for four years before becoming premier in 2011. This compares to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who previously was a minister for environment and for women’s affairs, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was state secretary at the ministries of education and social affairs before becoming premier.

“I can’t help feeling that the posts that are coming up -- EBRD, ECB, ESM, head of the Eurogroup, etc -- will be part of a bigger package,” Fekter said. “That means that no region or country is overrepresented, that there’s a balance between big and small.”

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zoe Schneeweiss at zschneeweiss@bloomberg.net

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