Merkel's chief economic aide to lead Bundesbank

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The Independent Online

One of the most powerful jobs in the European economy, and indeed the world, has been handed to the German Chancellor's 42-year-old chief economic adviser. Angela Merkel confirmed yesterday that Jens Weidmann will become the next president of the Bundesbank, and, thus, take the leading role in the running of the European Central Bank (ECB). He will replace Axel Weber on 1 May, after Mr Weber's abrupt decision to quit for "personal reasons".

Mr Weber has been a front-runner to replace Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the ECB when Mr Trichet retires at the end of October.

Mr Weidmann is thought to share Mr Weber's hawkish instincts, which may not suit all eurozone governments. Mr Weber was vocally critical, for example, of the ECB buying quantities of government paper issued by Europe's periphery.

Mr Weidmann would be a much less formidable candidate against Mario Draghi, the widely respected head of the Italian central bank who is also the chairman of the Bank for International Settlements, which is the international club of central bankers. The Finnish central bank's chairman, Erkki Liikanen, is another favourite candidate.

Eyebrows were also raised by the Bundesbank's new president's political closeness to Mrs Merkel. But one of Germany's most revered economic commentators, Hans-Werner Sinn, head of the German Institute for Economic Research (Ifo), gave Mr Weidmann his approval: "Once they are in office, they are completely reliable and independent. I don't see a problem."

Mr Weidmann joins the Bundesbank at a critical point as market pressure continues to push Portugal towards the danger zone.