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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NEWS ANALYSIS: Europeans Can't Agree On IMF Job Candidate




PARIS -- Europe is determined to ensure the top post at the International Monetary Fund remains in European hands when Frenchman Michel Camdessus leaves next month, but it looks equally incapable of finding a consensus candidate.


Germany is pulling out all the stops for state secretary for finance Caio Koch-Weser but, in classic form, its partners in Europe are holding out in hope of someone better, even if the risks of an unseemly diplomatic feud increase daily.


Camdessus has headed the IMF since 1987, spearheading the lending agency's endeavors to quell economic crisis in Asia and Russia as well as turmoil in global financial markets since 1997. He plans to bow out in mid-February.


"For the moment, there is only one official candidate, German state secretary for finance, Caio Koch-Weser, and the name has not got unanimous backing," one senior French official said. "We're waiting for all the candidates to come forward."


That looks like a poor show, given that Camdessus declared his intentions Nov. 9, leaving the Europeans ample time to continue the long-standing tradition whereby the IMF job goes to one of their own and the top World Bank job to an American.


France, which has occupied the post for more than 30 years since the IMF's post-war creation, is playing a waiting game and betting on an as-yet undeclared candidate who could avoid a U.S. veto as well as garnering wider backing within Europe. For now it is keeping its head down on Koch-Weser's name and arguing a strong character is needed.


"This strategic post needs someone with international stature, who can defend the IMF's role without diminishing it and someone who is seen as Africa- and Third World-friendly," another second French official said.


The echo from several French officials involved is that the German candidate does not make the grade, even if they are aware that Koch-Weser's candidature is becoming a matter of national pride for German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der.


Paris's delicate diplomatic links with Germany in promoting European integration explains the public silence, accompanied by a private insistence among French officials that others could well enter the race late, from Britain or perhaps Italy.


British Treasury officials keep their cards close to their chest, regularly insisting there is no British candidate but then refusing to rule out that there may be one at some point. It is even suggested in French quarters that London and Rome may be waiting in the that hope Koch-Weser will bow out on the grounds that he would fail to get round a U.S. veto, before they declare their final hand.


Even if Paris has not mooted a candidate of its own so far, the possibility is not totally ruled out if the knot sticks.


Officials say a meeting of European finance ministers on Jan. 31 could have more bearing on the IMF job than a gathering of Group of Seven finance ministers to be held this week in Tokyo.


- Additional reporting by Brian Love