Hans Tietmeyer, Former Bundesbank President, Dies at Age 85by
German central-bank chief oversaw introduction of euro in 1999
Negotiated German currency union after collapse of Berlin Wall
Former Bundesbank President Hans Tietmeyer, the last guardian of the German mark and one of the architects of Europe’s single currency, has died. He was 85.
Tietmeyer died on Tuesday, the Bundesbank said in a statement, without providing the cause of death.
“Hans Tietmeyer was an outstanding president, who always acted with a clear and firm hand that followed the goal of monetary stability,” Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said in the statement. “Our condolences and sympathy go out to his family and next of kin.”
As head of Germany’s central bank from 1993 to 1999, Tietmeyer preached the gospel of price stability and earned a reputation as a fierce supporter of independent monetary-policy making -- values the newly established European Central Bank would inherit in its work. After joining the Bundesbank in 1990, he advised then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl on economic issues in the country’s reunification talks and helped lay the groundwork for 11 countries to adopt the euro in the first wave just months before the expiration of his term.
“What I appreciated the most was that he was a true European, and that was manifested on many occasions,” said Jean-Claude Trichet, the former ECB president who as French civil servant worked with Tietmeyer in the 1980s and 1990s when the single currency was set up, in an interview earlier in December. “His position has always been carefully thought through and uncompromising. He was able to take decisions in difficult times, particularly in the crisis times -- he was unwaveringly European.”
A lover of Beethoven and ping-pong, Tietmeyer contributed to designing the Stability and Growth Pact that still forms the basis for Europe’s common currency. His conviction that central banks should conduct their policies independently of politics affected Germany and its European neighbors alike.
Tietmeyer, who occasionally referred to himself as Archbishop of Frankfurt, according to Der Spiegel magazine, stood behind the Bundesbank’s position in 1992 to raise interest rates to record levels to rein in inflation, causing stress in currency markets that ultimately forced the British government to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. In 1997, Tietmeyer publicly dismissed then-Finance Minister Theo Waigel’s request, made in private, to revalue the country’s gold reserves and help cover a budget shortfall.
The euro never quite lived up to his expectations. His caution prompted former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to call Tietmeyer the “main opponent” of monetary union, accusing the central banker of lacking strategic insight into the currency project.
The point Tietmeyer made was that a failure of governments to respect fiscal rules may create tensions between member states and undermine the currency. While he said in 2010 that there was no alternative to the euro, Tietmeyer advocated more cooperation and harmonization across policy areas. He also opposed the idea of each country’s representative having one vote when the Governing Council sets interest rates for the euro area.
Born on August 18, 1931, as one of 11 children in the small town of Metelen near the German border with the Netherlands, Tietmeyer initially studied theology and considered becoming a Catholic priest, like two of his brothers. He eventually attained a doctorate in economics from the University of Cologne in 1961 and spent almost three decades working as a civil servant in the West German capital of Bonn.
His career began at the Economy Ministry, where he worked under Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, the father of Germany’s postwar economic miracle, before moving to become deputy finance minister in Kohl’s government in 1982. For seven years, he was the point person for international economic relations, attending summits and talks. It was during that period, in September 1988, that Tietmeyer escaped an assassination attempt by a far-left militant group.
After the Berlin wall came down in 1989, he became Kohl’s special envoy in negotiations for a currency union between both parts of the country. Tietmeyer relinquished his seat on the Bundesbank’s board during that time. In 1993, he succeeded Helmut Schlesinger as president of the institution that provided the blueprint for the ECB.