Photo: (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann is really starting to lose friends over his stance on ECB policy. He’s long been opposed to the central bank buying government bonds on the open market, which in the last few days has become the action plan of choice among commentators, analysts, and reportedly the ECB itself.Over the weekend, German chancellor Angela Merkel said publicly, “I support Jens Weidmann, and that as the head of the German Bundesbank he has much influence as possible in the ECB.”
However, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reports today that behind the scenes, even Merkel and her cabinet are getting tired of Weidmann’s obstruction of ECB plans to stabilise peripheral countries’ bond markets.
Members of Merkel’s and Schäuble’s staffs appear to accept Weidmann’s notorious opposition to Draghi with a shrug. At the Chancellery, where the young Bundesbank president used to work, there has even been malicious talk of “fundamentalists.” In the Finance Ministry, too, Weidmann is increasingly regarded as a troublemaker. “Some people interpret the ECB’s mandate more narrowly. Others interpret it a bit more broadly,” says a senior Finance Ministry official, with a trace of fatalism in his voice.
Privately, Chancellor Merkel also has little sympathy for the intransigence of her former adviser. Merkel apparently feels that Weidmann and his staff shouldn’t be making such a fuss.
Weidmann, who before taking his post at the head of the Bundesbank was an economic adviser to Merkel, has apparently taken his former boss by surprise since being appointed to the German central bank:
Given his nature and reputation, observers were convinced that Weidmann would prove to be even more flexible in his new position than his predecessors. Previous Bundesbank chief Axel Weber, for example, had resigned over his opposition to bond purchases, and ECB chief economist Jürgen Stark followed suit shortly after Weidmann came into office.
It was all the more surprising that the new Bundesbank president was soon openly championing Germany’s positions even more staunchly than his predecessors. Whereas Weber and Stark tended to keep their criticism to themselves, Weidmann, in speeches, op-ed pieces and interviews, warned of the dangers of a misguided euro crisis policy.
In other words, Weidmann is living up to tradition a bit more than expectations.