Belgian lands top job at European Central Bank

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The head of the Belgian National Bank, Peter Praet, has clinched a top job on the ECB's six-member executive board, which sets interest rates for the euro area, according to the country's finance minister, Didier Reynders, who announced the appointment on his Twitter account. 

Among posts about the weather and local football team Eupen, Reynders announced Praet's appointment while tweeting during ministers' discussions in Brussels yesterday (14 February).

Finance ministers of the euro zone were meeting in Brussels yesterday to discuss the appointment and the bloc's 440bn euro financial stability facility.

Praet, who will replace Austria's Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, is a former International Monetary Fund economist, a member of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and a former head of cabinet for Reynders when he was Belgian finance minister.

The Belgian was also in the running for a European Central Bank (ECB) job last year but at that time he was seen as an outsider and after tense discussions, the bank's vice-presidency went to Portugal's Vitor Constancio.

Praet will start his post at the end of May when Tumpel-Gugerell's eight-year term ends and by which time the EU is hoping to have made two key decisions: on increasing the size of its rescue fund, and on how to measure and police national debt.

As the executive director of the Belgian central bank, Praet's responsibilities include financial stability and payment systems.

His exact role on the ECB's executive board is yet to be defined but Belgian sources say the bank will probably try to draw on his expertise in restoring financial stability.

During her term, Tumpel-Gugerell oversaw human resources, budget, payments, market infrastructure and securities. However, a spokesperson for the ECB said Praet's job may not be the same as there is no strict allocation of duties.

Praet's appointment makes the ECB's 23-member Governing Council, on which he will also sit, an all-male team. The Belgian beat Slovakia's Elena Kohutikova, the former deputy governor of the country's national bank, who reportedly disappointed ministers in hearings for the post.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank for the sixteen EU countries which have adopted the bloc's common currency, the euro. The ECB's main task is to maintain price stability in the euro area.

The current president of the ECB is former governor of the Banque de France Jean-Claude Trichet. His mandate will end in October 2011. Trichet replaced Dutchman Wim Duisemberg, who was the first president of the ECB.

The president plays a vital role in deciding the monetary policy of the euro area. He is assisted by the executive board of the ECB, composed of himself, the vice-president and four other members.

The ECB's board is part of the Governing Council of the bank, which is made up of all 16 presidents of the national central banks of eurozone member states. The body usually meets twice a month in Frankfurt, where the ECB's seat is located.

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