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ECB should fix date to end bond purchases: Weidmann

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The European Central Bank should set a date to end its asset-buying program, the head of Germany’s Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Deutsche Bundesbank (German Federal Bank) President Jens Weidmann gives a keynote to the ‘G20 Africa Partnership – Investing in a Common Future’ Summit in Berlin, Germany June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Tipped as a potential candidate to succeed ECB President Mario Draghi when his term expires at the end of October 2019, Weidmann is a vocal critic of the bank’s quantitative easing program.

“The prospects for the evolution of prices correspond to a return of inflation to a level sufficient to maintain the stability of prices.

For this reason, in my opinion, it would be justifiable to put a clear end to the buying of debt bonds by establishing a concrete date (for ending the program),” Weidmann said in an interview with El Mundo published on Sunday.

The ECB has pledged to continue buying bonds at least until September. But with economic growth in the euro zone on its best run in a decade and inflation comfortably above 1 percent, it is widely expected to wind down the program thereafter.

Weidmann also called for banks to reduce non-performing loans, saying that these bad assets were impeding plans to establish a bloc-wide deposit insurance program, known as the European deposit insurance scheme (EDIS).

“(The EDIS) could help to strengthen financial security in the euro zone. This without doubt would be a good thing. The problem is, however, many banks carry substantial amounts of bad debt.”

The creation of a joint deposit insurance program has long been a key goal of the ECB but has faced opposition from Germany, where the government fears having to foot the bill for banks in countries that are burdened with high levels of non-performing loans (NPLs).

Regarding the upcoming election of new leadership of the ECB, Weidmann said nationality of candidates should not be a key concern, heading off concerns voiced last year by Italian PM Enrico Letta about a German taking the role.

Spain Economy Minister Luis de Guindos recently suggested the ECB’s vice-president position, currently held by Vitor Constancio who has until May 1 to stand down, will probably go to a Spanish candidate.

Spain has not held a position on the ECB’s executive board since 2012 after the exit of Jose Manuel Gonzalez Paramo.

De Guindos has been considered in Brussels political circles as one of the main candidates for the job leading euro zone finance ministers.

Reporting by Sam Edwards in Barcelona; editing by Jesús Aguado and Susan Fenton