ECONOMY

EU leaders set to nominate Trichet as new ECB president

European Union leaders, gathered at the Porto Carras hotel resort outside Thessaloniki, were expected to nominate French Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet to become the next president of the European Central Bank during their three-day summit which started yesterday. Trichet was acquitted by a Paris court on Wednesday in a decade-old banking scandal that threatened to scuttle his campaign to succeed current ECB President Wim Duisenberg. French prosecutors said yesterday they would not appeal the court decision, paving the way for French President Jacques Chirac to renominate him at an EU summit being held here in Greece. Before the scandal broke, EU leaders agreed in a 1998 compromise that Duisenberg would leave partway through his eight-year term to give France a chance to push its own candidate for the job. But when Trichet was forced to go to court his candidature was put on hold, pending the outcome of the case. Officials said yesterday Trichet’s candidature was likely to be met with wide approval. «If Mr Trichet, fortunately, has been able to resolve all doubts about him, there are no obstacles as far as we are concerned,» Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on arriving at Thessaloniki. EU president Greece said the bloc’s leaders would discuss the appointment of Trichet as ECB head either last night or today. Asked whether the EU summit would discuss confirming Trichet as heir to Duisenberg, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told reporters: «I can’t tell you now because this is a new development. So it will be discussed, I assume, most likely today or tomorrow.» Once nominated, Trichet will still have to wait until after EU finance ministers make a final decision and the European Parliament reviews the nomination, which could take months. Trichet’s confirmation would still see the 67-year old Duisenberg stay on past his birthday in July. Trichet, 60, was to replace Duisenberg on July 9. Plaudits for Trichet continued to roll in from across Europe. Economists said the prospect of his appointment was good for the euro because he was respected and because it lifted doubts surrounding the succession. Belgian central bank governor and ECB council member Guy Quaden told reporters in Brussels, «I think the road to Frankfurt is cleared and entirely cleared for Governor Trichet.» «It is hard to come up with a better central bank chief,» Gunnar Lund, minister for international economic affairs in the government in Sweden, where a referendum on eurozone membership will take place in September, said in Stockholm. In Thessaloniki, an aide to Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, said Belgium had no objection to Trichet as the next ECB chief but wanted a Benelux representative on the ECB board. «Now he has been acquitted, (we have) no objection to his nomination, but we think we should use the first new nomination, the first coming opportunity, to ensure Benelux representation on the ECB board,» the aide told reporters. Belgium has nominated economist and senator Paul de Grauwe without success for the last two ECB vacancies. One, the vice presidency of the bank, was filled last year by former Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos. (AFP, AP)