Axel Weber is expected to take over the reins of Germany's central bank. For many, the government's choice of the Cologne economist came as a surprise.
Weber, left, with Finance Minister Hans Eichel
Government officials officially nominated the 47-year-old University of Cologne professor after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Finance Minister Hans Eichel had proposed Weber for the post Tuesday night. Government sources have said that Weber has already accepted the nomination.
Procedure requires the German president to name the central bank chief, who the Bundesbank board of directors may not reject. But the bank leaders may demand a hearing to determine whether Weber is qualified for the job. Their evaluation of the economist would then be relayed confidentially to the government.
"Professor Weber is well-known to the Bundesbank," a spokesman for the directors said on Wednesday. He is a member of the Bundesbank research center's advisory board and had been involved significantly in various conferences, the spokesman said, according to Reuters.
A "wise man"
Weber (second from right) is one of Germany's five economic "wise men"
Indeed, Weber, who is said to be Eichel's preferred candidate, may have been a surprise, but he's far from unknown in economic circles. For two years now he has been one of Germany's five so-called "wise men," (photo) an independent academic body which advises the government and parliament on economic policy issues.
Initially, Weber wasn't on the long list of possible successors for Ernst Welteke, who resigned his post Friday after revelations that he had allowed Dresdner Bank to pick up a hotel tab for him and his family to stay at Berlin's luxurious Adlon hotel. The names of Foreign Ministry State Secretaries Alfred Tacke and Caio Koch-Weser and Bundesbank Deputy Chief Jürgen Stark had all been bandied about by the media as possible candidates.
The Bundesbank refused to comment on rumors Wednesday that Jürgen Stark, who is considered close to the opposition Christian Democratic Union party, might resign from his position if he didn't become bank president.
Weber, who is neither a member of a political party nor aligned with one, has already received backing from across party lines and from throughout the economic community. Opposition politician Friedrich Merz, the CDU's spokesman for economics issues, welcomed Weber's selection. The heads of two of Germany's top economic institutes, Hanns-Werner Sinn of the Ifo and Klaus Zimmermann of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), both praised the choice, as did Michael Heise, chief economist at insurance giant Allianz, according to media reports.
"He is a proven monetary policy-maker and will surely do the job well," Sinn said.
Weber received a doctorate in political science from the University of Siegen in 1987. He started his academic career as a research associate in monetary and currency issues in 1982 in the western German city. He later established himself as an expert on monetary theory and currency policies.
He also made a name for himself by organizing international conferences and working as an advisor and consultant. He has compiled studies on monetary policy and currency stability for European Union institutions, including the European Commission and the European Parliament. Since 2001 he has been a part of the European Central Bank's research department.
If his selection is approved, Weber, who is married and has two children, will be the youngest Bundesbank president ever.