Solemn ceremony greets Tietmeyer: The new Bundesbank president will reign in continuity, says John Eisenhammer

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The Independent Online
SOLEMN AND MIGHTY, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and ministers, the captains of industry and finance, the representatives of the people, gathered in Frankfurt yesterday to worship and celebrate; to swear their faith in the mark and allegiance to the Bundesbank.

It was an occasion to mark the departure of the High Priest, Helmut Schlesinger - known as the central bankers' central banker - and to bless his successor, Hans Tietmeyer, as the new president of the Bundesbank.

'Continuity and change' was the theme of the sermon, but the congregation was left in no doubt that the former reigns over the latter.

To the muted strains of Schumann, the high mass unfolded as the packed congregation swore to guard against the temptations of inflation, and to follow the path of monetary righteousness.

Politicians who think that in times of recession the economy can easily be stimulated should disabuse themselves, intoned Eberhard Martini, president of the German Bankers' Association. Their demands will break like arrows on the ramparts of that 'impregnable fortress of stability', the Bundesbank.

Mr Kohl reminded the congregation that it was Margaret Thatcher who had described the Bundesbank as the best central bank in Europe, and warned it should never stray from its well- considered path. Mr Kohl said: 'She is not a lady generous with praise, certainly not for institutions outside of Britain, and especially not for one in Germany. To her words, there is nothing to add.' The congregation buzzed.

Turning to Mr Schlesinger, the Chancellor said: 'There was much criticism against you, from at home and abroad. Sometimes you got angry, occasionally very angry, but you never departed from your course. I can

only congratulate you for this.'

It was Mr Schlesinger, awesome in his 69 years, who delivered the fire and brimstone the people awaited, unrepentant to the last for having ignored foreign entreaties that German interest rates be lowered to ease recession.

Speaking beneath the vast chandeliers inside the botanical gardens, he said: 'There is no obligation to neglect or give up the securing of domestic monetary stability for other goals, such as the exchange rates and interest-rate levels of other countries.'

It was Mr Tietmeyer, accompanied by Johann Wilhelm Gaddum, his new vice-president of the Bundesbank, who offered the only hint of weakness. 'Even the Bundesbank is not infallible,' he conceded, but this was soon drowned out by his determination to banish all suspicion that, because of his long years in Bonn ministries, he may waver under political pressure. 'My last years of work here in Frankfurt have brought about a total identification with the principles of the Bundesbank,' he said.