One of architects of European single currency dies

Ex-Bundesbank president Hans Tietmeyer had key role in creation of European Central Bank

Hans Tietmeyer, the former president of the Bundesbank and one of the architects of the European single currency, has died aged 85. Photograph: Getty Images

Hans Tietmeyer, the former president of the Bundesbank and one of the architects of the European single currency, has died aged 85. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Hans Tietmeyer, the former president of the Bundesbank and one of the architects of the European single currency, has died aged 85.

Hailed as the “last guardian of the D-Mark”, he played a critical role in preparations for European monetary union and the creation of the European Central Bank.

“Hans Tietmeyer was an outstanding president, who always acted with a clear and firm hand that followed the goal of monetary stability,” Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president, said in a statement. “Our condolences and sympathy go out to his family and next of kin.”

Tietmeyer was committed to price stability and the principle that central banks should carry out monetary policy without political interference, values later enshrined in the ECB.

He also was involved in the design of the eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact, which sets ceilings for government deficits and still underpins Europe’s common currency.

Tietmeyer was head of the German central bank from October 1993 to August 1999, his term expiring a few months after the euro made its debut on global financial markets. He was the first German representative on the ECB’s governing council.

Born on August 18, 1931 in the small town of Metelen, near the German border with the Netherlands, Tietmeyer was one of 11 children. As a child, he cultivated a passion for table tennis that remained with him all his life.

He briefly studied theology and considered becoming a Catholic priest, but later switched to economics, earning a doctorate at the University of Cologne in 1961.

Economic miracle

He began his career in 1962 as an official in the German economics ministry, initially under Ludwig Erhard, architect of Germany’s postwar economic miracle. He became deputy finance minister in the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl 20 years later, acting as his “sherpa” in preparing for international economic summits. 

He survived an assassination attempt in 1988 when his assailant’s gun jammed. The Red Army Faction, a leftwing militant group, later claimed responsibility.

In 1990, he joined the Bundesbank’s executive board, but relinquished the post for three months after being appointed as Mr Kohl’s special envoy to talks on the currency aspects of German reunification.

Tietmeyer was on the Bundesbank board in 1992 when the bank decided to raise interest rates to record levels to rein in inflation. The move ultimately forced the British government to take the pound out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

In October 1993 he succeeded Helmut Schlesinger as Bundesbank president. Four years later Tietmeyer rejected a bid by Theo Waigel, then finance minister, to make the Bundesbank revalue its gold to raise extra cash during a budget shortfall.

In a statement this year, the Bundesbank said Tietmeyer always “vigorously defended the stability of the German D-Mark” even if this meant he “sometimes made decisions and took up positions that did not please everyone”.

He believed in the euro project, but remained ambivalent about the way the currency union was implemented. In 2010, he said there was no alternative to the common currency, but said “co-operation and harmonisation across policy areas is necessary to make a currency union work in the long run”.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “this has not happened in Europe to the extent required.”

- Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016