BRUSSELS Dec 4 The next president of the
Eurogroup, the monthly meeting of euro zone finance ministers
that has been critical in tackling the debt crisis, should be a
head of government, Austria's Finance Minister Maria Fekter said
Jean-Claude Juncker, who has headed the Eurogroup since
2005, confirmed on Monday that he will step down at the end of
this year. Juncker is Luxembourg's prime minister as well as its
treasury minister, giving him particular clout in discussions.
Asked if she would want Juncker's job, Fekter said:
"That's a position for a head of government and as you know
I'm not a head of government. The bosses will decide how they
want to handle this."
Juncker's double role created a convenient link between the
euro zone's 17 finance ministers and its heads of state and
government, who ultimately make the most important decisions. By
being sitting on the committees for both finance ministers and
leaders, Juncker was able to act as a bridge between the two.
The EU treaty does not set any conditions for the head of
the Eurogroup, saying only that the person must be chosen by
euro zone finance ministers via a majority vote and will serve
for a renewable two-and-a-half-year term.
Earlier this year, when it looked as if Juncker might step
down, several names were put forward as potential successors,
including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Finnish
Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, who is a former finance minister,
and Mario Monti, the caretaker prime minister of Italy.
The Eurogroup is one of the most powerful committees in the
EU and has taken or prepared some of the most important
decisions in the debt crisis over the past three years,
including the setting up of a euro zone bailout fund and the
decisions to rescue Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
Financial markets play close attention to comments made by
finance ministers ahead of each Eurogroup meeting, and markets
and the euro frequently move sharply on the basis of what
is agreed or likely to be agreed among the ministers.