Draghi Anoints Coeure With Pivotal Portfolios as ECB Role Shifts

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi assigned the key international portfolio to France’s Benoit Coeure in a reshuffle of Executive Board duties that reflects a changing role in the euro-area financial architecture.

The former deputy director-general of the French Treasury will take over the portfolio for international and European relations at a time when the ECB is embroiled with European Union governments over the remaining pillar of a nascent banking union. Coeure, 44, will also continue to oversee the ECB’s link to the financial markets, the Directorate General for Market Operations, the ECB said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

The reworking of the six-person Executive Board was prompted by the resignation in December of Germany’s Joerg Asmussen, who was the ECB’s chief negotiator in Brussels dealmaking over the region’s debt crisis. The currency bloc’s financial rebuilding will see the ECB take over supervision of the euro zone’s 130 largest banks in November, a task likely to be jointly led by Asmussen’s replacement, Sabine Lautenschlaeger, and Daniele Nouy, the chair of the Supervisory Board.

The ECB said the new arrangement of board responsibilities takes effect immediately.

Coeure took over the market-operations portfolio from Lorenzo Bini Smaghi when the Italian retired from the ECB at the end of 2011, assuming the driving role in elements of the central bank’s non-standard monetary policy. Two months into that job, he delivered a keynote speech on the challenges of interest rates approaching the zero lower bound. The ECB took its deposit rate there in July 2012.

Mersch Role

Coeure’s comments are closely watched by economists and investors. He said in an interview with Bloomberg News published on Jan. 16 that the ECB may not renew long-term loans that were key to fighting the euro area’s debt crisis, signaling that the ECB sees a day when financial markets can cope without emergency support.

Lautenschlaeger, 49, was appointed to the ECB’s board last month and is now in the final stages of being separately appointed as vice chair of the Supervisory Board, the ECB body that will prepare oversight decisions.

Yves Mersch, who joined the ECB board in 2012, adds legal services to his duties, as well as payments and market infrastructure. Legal services for the Single Supervisory Mechanism will be led by Lautenschlaeger, in line with the ECB’s commitment to keep monetary policy and supervision separate.

Belgium’s Peter Praet remains the ECB’s de facto chief economist, in charge of the Directorate General for Economics, while handing responsibility for the statistics arm to Lautenschlaeger.

Vice President Vitor Constancio, who has played a leading role in the negotiations over banking union, takes control of a newly-defined portfolio for macro-prudential policy and financial stability.

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