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ECB Watch: Musical chairs for the board, but no change in policy

Jürgen Stark has taken Otmar Issing’s seat but Issing’s old role has been split, reinforcing collegiality on the board.

On June 1, new boy Jürgen Stark slipped into the seat on the European Central Bank executive board that fellow former Bundesbanker Otmar Issing had vacated the day before, but not into Issing’s shoes. The number one item on ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet’s agenda that day was to secure the support of his five colleagues on the board for an extensive reshuffling of their job portfolios that would include, among other changes, the splitting of Issing’s twin responsibilities for economics and research, as foreshadowed in this column a month ago. Significantly, Stark won the key slot of economics, while vice-president Lucas Papademos took on responsibility for research.

Succession and credibility

Although the post of chief economist – a title bestowed on Issing by the outside world but not recognized within the ECB – is no more, Stark inherits the front-line responsibility for directing the ECB’s economic and monetary analysis in preparation for the monthly monetary policy meetings and for presenting to the executive board and the governing council each month his policy recommendations based on that analysis. So the papal succession is secured and the Bundesbank’s mantle of credibility is passed on to the ECB’s second generation.

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