Germany puts forward deputy finance minister to go to ECB

Reuters

By Annika Breidthardt

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Germany has proposed deputy finance minister Joerg Asmussen to replace Juergen Stark on the European Central Bank's executive board, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Saturday.

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Stark, the top German at the ECB, announced on Friday he would quit early in what sources said was a protest against the ECB's policy of buying bonds to help troubled euro zone debtor states.

Sources told Reuters on Friday that Asmussen could be named to replace Stark -- whose resignation revealed a deep split at the ECB over its bond-buying activities -- a choice that looked set to meet little opposition.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, said Asmussen would be an excellent choice for the ECB board.

"The euro cannot be saved by one person but he would be without a doubt the right person," Juncker told reporters in Marseille.

Asmussen, who has been a key figure in Germany's policy response to the euro zone debt crisis, said he was ready to accept the challenged of securing economic stability in the euro zone.

Asked if he had been taken by surprise at Stark's decision, Schaeuble said: "We weren't surprised by his decision. But unfortunately because of the independence of the ECB our attempts to dissuade him failed."

G8 finance officials met a day after Group of Seven finance chiefs in Marseille pledged a coordinated response to the faltering global economic recovery but offered few specifics to appease shaky financial markets.

A respected economist who studied under former Bundesbank chief Axel Weber, Asmussen has moved rapidly up the career ladder at the German finance ministry, moving from junior advisor in 1996 to deputy finance minister just 12 years later.

Asmussen is a Social Democrat but was kept by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives after the last federal election due to the experience he had gained in fighting the financial crisis.

A euro zone central bank source said on Friday that Stark was angry at being passed over when Weber quit the German central bank earlier this year, clearly also unhappy with the ECB bond-buying programme.

The ECB has faced sharp criticism in Germany for buying bonds -- a move many see as taking the bank into the fiscal arena and threatening its core role of fighting inflation.

(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott; Writing by Mike Peacock)