Macron derides Weidmann's 'belated' support for ECB's bond programme

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference after the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron derided Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann’s “belated” support for a European Central Bank programme of government bond purchases, amid talk of the German running to succeed Mario Draghi as head of the ECB.

“I’m very glad, very glad really, that members who had strongly opposed, even legally challenged, Mario Draghi’s decisions and OMT have become belated but vigorous converts to this view,” Macron told reporters ironically on Friday when asked if Weidmann would be a good ECB president.

“I think it means we all have good in ourselves and can all become better people,” he continued in jest. “So there are reasons to be optimistic about human nature,” Macron added, to laughter in the French press room of the European Council in Brussels. He declined to say whether Weidmann had his support.

Weidmann appeared to drop his opposition on Wednesday to the ECB’s bond purchase programme, announced during the euro zone debt crisis, as he sought to improve his position in the race to succeed Draghi.

The head of the German Bundesbank was the sole opponent on the ECB’s Governing Council to the Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme, which he saw as financing governments. In 2013, Weidmann testified against the ECB in a German court case over the OMT.

Weidmann, a guardian of German economic orthodoxy who has often opposed the ECB’s easy-money policy, is one of the candidates to replace Draghi as ECB president in November. But he may face opposition from indebted countries in the bloc’s south, which favour lower interest rates.

In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit’s online edition, Weidmann appeared to accept the OMT, saying: “The European Court of Justice has examined OMT and determined it to be legal. Moreover, OMT is current policy.”

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Catherine Evans