Sabine Lautenschläger likely to succeed Jörg Asmussen at European Central Bank

Germany expected to propose Bundesbank vice-president as an executive board member of the ECB


Germany is likely to propose Bundesbank vice-president Sabine Lautenschläger to follow Jörg Asmussen as executive board member of the European Central Bank.

On Sunday, after almost two years in Frankfurt, Mr Asmussen announced he was prematurely ending his contract, which ran to 2019.

The 47-year-old SPD member returns to Berlin as state secretary in the new SPD-controlled labour ministry.

Ms Lautenschläger (49) leads the field to take over the influential German seat at the ECB, with two other women mentioned as possible candidates – the head of the BaFin financial regulator, Elke König, and economist Claudia Buch, the female member of Germany's so-called "economic wise men" advisory council.

German chancellor Angela Merkel declined to speculate on names yesterday though finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble praised Ms Lautenschläger as an "outstanding" Bundesbank vice-president and someone "well worth considering".

Strong candidate
While Berlin is anxious to find a strong candidate to retain its ECB seat, Ms Lautenschläger has been a critical voice in the ongoing project of the banking union, warning of "sovereign liability through the back door" unless accompanied by a closer fiscal union with cross-border rules on budgets.

Mr Draghi said he would miss Mr Asmussen, his point man in the euro crisis and arbitrator of tensions with Berlin and the constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

In a statement, Mr Asmussen said he was moving to Berlin because of the difficulty combining family life with small children, the commute to and from Frankfurt and regular work trips abroad.

There were also tensions of late, most recently an ECB correction for his suggestion the ESM bailout fund might act as an interim financier for a European bank resolution fund.

There were tensions too with Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank chief, a member of the ECB's interest rate-setting council and a friend from university.

He has been critical of ECB monetary policy of late, in particular Mr Draghi’s promise to “do whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency. He was livid, too, over the promissory note deal agreed for Ireland brokered by Mr Asmussen.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin