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Germany

New economist takes over at German Central Bank

A former adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel has replaced Bundesbank President Axel Weber as the head of the German Central Bank. Some see political favoritism playing a role in what should be an independent appointment.

A bag of money

Weidmann will decide how far Germany's money bag opens

German President Christian Wulff officially appointed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's former economic adviser Jens Weidmann as the new head of the German Central Bank on Friday. Weidmann replaced Axel Weber as president of the Bundesbank. Weber had run the German Central Bank since 2004.

Green parliamentary financial spokesman Gerhard Schick has criticized Weidmann's appointment, saying he's too close to Merkel.

Jens Weidmann, the new Bundesbank chief

Jens Weidmann is just 42 and hardly known to the public

"Above all Jens Weidmann has qualified for the top position at the Bundesbank through his unwavering loyalty to the chancellor,in her eyes," Schick wrote in the online version of the business daily Handelsblatt. "But these characteristics don't fit well with the monetary independence of the institution."

Schick went on to recommend Weidmann "prove his independence" by clearly keeping the Central Bank separate from the Chancellery.

European speculation

Meanwhile, the German mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported on Friday that Merkel had thrown her crucial support behind Italy's Mario Draghi as the next head of the European Central Bank.

A government spokesman later denied that the chancellor had made up her mind on who to support for the position.

Axel Weber, former head of the Bundesbank

Axel Weber was tipped to be ECB chief, but missed out

"The German government will express its support for a possible candidate in due time," said German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert. "We have already made public the criteria we consider important for a candidate. The situation has not changed."

Analysts say there is no realistic alternative after former Bundesbank head Axel Weber pulled out of the running. Weber had been widely regarded as the likely successor to Jean-Claude Trichet, but Weber isolated himself by criticizing the way the ECB had handled the financial crisis in the eurozone.

The final decision is expected to be taken at a summit in June.

Weidmann will be watching developments in the European Central Bank with interest. As Bundesbank president he will also be a member of the ECB's governing council.

Out of the shadows

Weidmann is just 42 years old, but has already had a polished career, most recently spending five years as Merkel's economic adviser.

However, he is virtually unknown to the German public. Up till now, he hasn't given interviews, but that will change with his new role.

"Anyone who knows Jens Weidmann knows that has excellent professional skills, a brilliant intellect and that he has an independent mind," Merkel told reporters when his name was announced.

Weidmann studied in Paris and Bonn. In 1997, he started a two-year stint at the International Monetary Fund. Weidmann later became general secretary of the German Council of Economic Experts, and from 2003 to 2006 he headed the Bundesbank's currency policy and monetary analysis department.

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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