European finance ministers on Monday recommended Italy's Mario Draghi to be the next head of the European Central Bank, clearing the way for his appointment to a job where he will lead the fight against the debt crisis and inflation.
Draghi, 63, became the prohibitive favorite for the job in the past three weeks after winning support from France and Germany, the two largest countries in the euro bloc.
He is currently the chief of Italy's central bank and, through that post, a member of the ECB's interest rate-setting committee.
A summit of heads of state and government from the euro countries are expected to give final approval to Draghi's candidacy in the next few weeks, after consultations with the European Parliament and the European Central Bank's governing council.
Draghi, a former World Bank and Italian treasury official, would take over the Frankfurt-based bank for an eight-year term after current ECB head Jean-Claude Trichet leaves on Oct. 31.
The bank sets interest rates for 17 countries with 331 million people. It has also played a lead role in fighting Europe's government debt crisis, consulting on bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland and keeping shaky banks afloat with emergency credit.
Draghi's candidacy overcame initial skepticism about putting someone from Italy in charge of the ECB, given the country's high levels of debt and shaky record on inflation. Fighting inflation is the ECB's chief mandate under the treaty that established it.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who also chairs the eurozone group meetings, said Monday that Draghi "brings together all the qualities to be a worthy successor to Jean-Claude Trichet."
Juncker called Draghi "a central banker who has proved throughout his career that he holds very dear the principles of the euro and European monetary integration."
Germany's Bundesbank head Axel Weber was originally expected to get the job with the backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel. He withdrew, however, after getting into a public dispute with the majority on the ECB governing council over their decision to start buying government bonds from countries with shaky finances.
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