Jens Weidmann’s candidacy for the helm of the European Central Bank has just been bruised by a lashing of French irony.
At a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron praised the Bundesbank head for accepting that outgoing ECB President Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” policy, known as OMT, is legally valid. But he also doused his compliments with sarcasm.
“I’m really happy, I mean really happy, that members who strongly opposed, who sought legal recourse, against Mario Draghi’s decisions, against the OMT and all the mechanisms, are converting, perhaps a bit late but they are converting with vigor.”
— Emmanuel Macron at the EU summit on Friday.
Weidmann this week said for the first time that OMT, a bond-buying program for stressed nations developed during the 2012 debt crisis but never yet used, is “legal” and “current policy.” He had previously opposed the measure and even testified in court against it — with the ECB on the other side of the case.
That resistance to such crisis-fighting measures has been seen as a stumbling block in his bid to
replace Draghi, who leaves at the end of October. Macron has been publicly silent on Weidmann until now, even if his ministers have stated France’s preference for continuity at the ECB.
French backing might have been Weidmann’s saving grace, but the French president’s mordant comments on the German’s new stance suggest that’s far from given.
“I think that shows that we’ve all got good in us and we can all improve ourselves,” Macron said, provoking a ripple of laughter from reporters. “Above all, the lesson I learn from this is one of optimism for human nature.”