Merkel 'is EU's big weakness'

Bank boss says German chancellor is holding back Europe's economy with her lack of vision
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The Independent Online

The head of one of Europe's fastest-growing banks has launched a damning attack on Angela Merkel ahead of the German elections later this month.

Lars Seier Christensen, the chief executive of Saxo Bank, which provides Barclays with white-label products in the UK, described Germany's chancellor as "Europe's Achilles' heel".

He warned that her lack of vision was damaging the continent's economy.

"Ms Merkel has said 'nein' to centralised European Union economic governance, 'nein' to a permanent bailout mechanism and 'nein' to the idea of eurobonds, which she called 'economically wrong and counterproductive'," he said.

"She is a problem solver and there's nothing wrong with solving concrete problems.

"However, politics is also about declaring new ideas and visions. It's about setting an agenda instead of following a popular sentiment. Ms Merkel has yet to do that."

Saxo bank, headquartered in Denmark, has offices in 25 countries including the UK and Germany.

Mr Christensen is an outspoken critic of the EU and this year warned a eurozone break-up was inevitable as Brussels claimed even more power and used it "ever more poorly".

On Ms Merkel, he said: "Germans are in no mood for change. The polls show Ms Merkel is likely to win. She will then stay the de facto leader of the EU and its future and – disaster – currency will be determined by this former research chemist.

"As I see it, the research is done. The verdict is out. We have to re-evaluate the EU."

Voters across Europe's largest economy will go to the polls on September 22 when the incumbent German chancellor is widely expected to be re-elected for a third successive term.

Unlike Mr Christensen, most commentators in the City believe a victory for Ms Merkel is vital for Europe's economic recovery.

Mike Jennings, the chief investment officer at Premier Asset Management, said: "Despite Ms Merkel's commanding lead in the latest German opinion polls, to assume a smooth return to power in next month's election is a dangerous stance to take.

"If there is not a smooth return to power, European markets could unexpectedly dip."