Italy's central bank governor Mario Draghi
BRUSSELS - AFP
Mario Draghi of Italy is set to be appointed the next president of the European Central Bank by eurozone finance ministers on Monday, at a pivotal point in the eurozone debt crisis
. The drama at the top of the IMF over the arrest of its head Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sex assault charges puts a keen edge on the ECB leadership talks in Brussels even though there is little doubt that Draghi will get the job.
Draghi became the almost certain successor to French Jean-Claude Trichet when German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed him last week.
For months German media had reported that Merkel wanted him to take over the International Monetary Fund instead of the ECB when Strauss-Kahn's term at the IMF ends in 2012.
Draghi, who heads the Italian central bank and is known in Italy as "Super Mario", had already received the backing of the other key leader in the eurozone, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
With the ECB spearheading herculean efforts to contain a year-long debt crisis overhanging the euro, observers would like to see a smooth transfer when Trichet steps down in October.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the Eurogroup of finance ministers, also voiced support for Draghi last week and called for a quick decision on the next ECB chief, saying it would "show a great deal of decision-making authority in these difficult times."
In addition to picking the next ECB president, EU finance ministers meeting on Monday and Tuesday must seal a 78-billion-euro bailout for Portugal and discuss the possibility of new aid to Greece.
EU heads of state and government will make the final decision on the ECB chief at a summit in June.
Draghi is highly regarded in the global financial sector and has earned kudos as head of the Financial Stability Board, an international body tasked with reforming the sector in the wake of the global economic crisis.
A member of the ECB governing council, which makes key decisions on interest rates, the former Goldman Sachs executive will take over at a stormy time for the euro following EU-IMF rescues for Greece, Ireland and now Portugal.
The ECB, guardian of price stability in the 17-nation eurozone, has propped up the debt of troubled economies by purchasing billions of euros in weak sovereign bonds on secondary markets.
Draghi's stated support for ensuring that eurozone inflation remains in check and that governments respect strict fiscal guidelines has been crucial in garnering support from Germany.
Merkel had dragged her feet before voicing support for Draghi, waiting until last Wednesday to endorse him.
She told Die Zeit newspaper that Draghi was "a very interesting and experienced figure. He is very close to our conception of a culture of stability and a solid economy."
Berlin had no viable candidate of its own after former Bundesbank president Axel Weber announced his resignation in February.
Draghi played to German public opinion in February when he told a newspaper: "We should all follow the German example" when it came to questions of economic reforms.