“Only one person can now stand in the way of Axel Weber, and that is Axel Weber.” This from an entertaining article by Wolfgang Munchau, who points to Professor Weber’s recent opposition to the ECB on matters such as bond buying and the mooted permanence of the European Financial Stability Fund. The Bundesbank president, widely considered a front-runner to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet next year, wants the ECB to phase out its asset purchase scheme, wants an early exit from low interest rates and favours the eventual phasing out of the EFSF. “It is,” says Mr Munchau, “hard to find someone who is more out of tune with the EU’s majority view on economic governance.” Mr Trichet seems to agree.
ECB governing council decisions are formed by consensus and not by vote. So the role of president is of peculiar importance, in building and communicating consensus – a decision reached by very human means, and not simply by a tally of hawks and doves. Mario Draghi – another front-runner – may possess more of these skills. But, Mr Munchau concludes, if the race for presidency turns into a two-man fight, the likely victor will be a third man, “nobody knows who, but most probably a northern European with a hawkish mindset. There is a long tradition in the EU that the top jobs do not go to those best qualified, but to those who happen to have the right nationality at the right time.” Well worth reading in full.