January 22, 2018 / 7:48 PM / in 7 months

Eurogroup chief opens two-year race for top ECB jobs

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The chairman of euro zone finance ministers Mario Centeno called on Monday for candidates to replace European Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio, whose term expires in May, kicking off two years of flux at the top of the ECB.

President of the Eurogroup Mario Centeno rings a bell at the start of an eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

“I launched today the call for candidates for the upcoming ECB Vice President vacancy, to ensure a smooth succession of Vitor Constancio, whose term ends on 31 May,” Centeno said.

Euro zone governments can present their candidates until Feb. 7 and euro zone finance ministers will vote on Feb. 19. The candidate will then have a hearing in the European Parliament and finally be appointed by EU leaders.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is so far the only publicly known candidate and a favourite for the number two job at the ECB. This could offer clues about political positions in the contest to replace ECB President Mario Draghi in 2019.

With EU spoils shared around the regions, selecting a southern European would signal that Draghi’s job will go to northern Europe, possibly Germany, euro zone officials, who asked not to be named, have told Reuters.

Germany is seen as eager to claim the presidency, two decades after the ECB’s creation, but the hawkish views of its obvious candidate, Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann, will count against him for some, euro zone sources have said.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Catherine Evans

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