German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been lobbying other heads of government to appoint Schäuble as Eurogroup chair, succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker (see background), the Financial Times Deutschland reported.
Citing unnamed sources in Brussels and several EU capitals, the newspaper reports that Schäuble would be the first choice to head the informal group if a European leader isn't selected. "He's got the best cards at the moment," an insider said.
Both Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is also Italy's finance minister, reportedly turned down the position recently. If Schäuble were to be appointed, he would have to continue on as Germany's finance minister, the newspaper reports.
According to the article a decision could be delayed until May because of the French presidential election. "The game isn't over yet," a high-ranking EU finance official told the newspaper.
He also indicated there is French resistance to Schäuble: "Sarkozy fears that the German position could be strengthened." Sources from within the Eurogroup told the paper that Sarkozy's opposition to Juncker has softened after Merkel began promoting Schäuble as a possible successor.
Speculation in Brussels, Berlin
In Brussels, there is speculation that Juncker could continue until 2014, but he has indicated that he is overworked and wants to back down. As regards the possible candidacy of Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, it appears that several countries are opposed to having the Commission given more powers. Rehn has already been appointed Commission vice president and de-facto economic affairs minister of the eurozone, as part of an institutional set-up for the eurozone's economic governance.
Schäuble himself has reacted evasively to the report. He was quoted as saying that if Juncker indeed steps down, his successor would be one of the Eurozone finance ministers with a top credit rating, and there was "no hurry" for deciding. In the Eurozone, only Germany, Finland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands enjoy a "triple A" credit rating status.
"At the moment we have other work to do than dealing with these speculations about personnel decisions," he said.
An argument against Schäuble could be that the office bears a considerable extra effort both time-wise as well as physically. This could turn out to be difficult for Schäuble, who was partially paralysed in an assassination attempt in 1990 and has been bound to a wheelchair since. He recently repeatedly emphasised that he is currently feeling good and his health is robust.
German centre-right MEP Markus Ferber (CSU) stated: "The head of the Eurogroup is one of the four top jobs in Brussels. Germany is entitled to occupy one of these positions. After all, Germany is carrying the main burden of the rescue of the euro. It is clear, that this post can only be held by a representative from a stable country, because filling this position has to have a signalling effect for a stable euro after the crisis. Wolfgang Schäuble would be an excellent choice for the job due to his many years of experience as finance minister."
Germany's opposition Social Democrats (SPD) are calling for Schäuble's resignation as finance minister, should he take the job as head of the Eurogroup. "Should Mr. Schäuble take the position as head of the Eurogroup, this would be inconsistent with the challenges of the office of the Federal Minister of Finance", budetary spokesman of the SPD parliamentary group, Carsten Schneider, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
"His negative performance record would undermine the necessary credibility and authority of this responsible job."
France to obtain 'compensation'
In France, the press wrote that Paris would not propose a candidate because of the campaign for the presidential election, with a second round on 6 May. Different newspapers have contradictory views on Schäuble's candidacy. The economic daily Les Echos calls him "the most credible candidate", while the left-wing Libération calls his candidacy "worrying" because of his tough positions on Greece.
"French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not yet given his consent, out of concern that the German position becomes too powerful," writes Le Monde, citing Eurogroup sources.
However, the press appears united in the view that France would take advantage of the situation to obtain in exchange the leadership post of the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), due to replace the current European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) in July.