If you haven't heard of
, don't feel bad.
Welteke on Wednesday was appointed to replace his charismatic boss,
, as the next president of the
. Even Welteke's appointment -- which will make him Germany's sole voice at the
-- was overshadowed by the resignation of U.S.
and the dismissal of Russian Prime Minister
But the 56-year-old central banker will take on his new responsibilities as the euro's once-unquestioned future looks less certain. That will force Welteke to champion the new currency's resemblance to the mark as opposed to the Italian lira -- not the given some might suspect.
On the surface, Welteke, currently the head of the regional branch of the Bundesbank in Hesse state, is distinctly different from his predecessor. Welteke is a long-time member of the ruling
party. He has a reputation for being affable and collegial.
Unlike Tietmeyer, Welteke isn't an international figure. While he is close to new Finance Minister
and has strong domestic political ties, he may find it hard to assert himself in the international forum Europe's central bank is by necessity.
Welteke also has Tietmeyer's legacy to deal with. Before the 11 nations chose to create Europe's single currency, Tietmeyer was the elder statesman of Continental central banking. Indeed, much of Europe would merely shadow the interest-rate moves of the Bundesbank. Tietmeyer also spoke for the
Group of Ten
nations after their monthly meetings at the
Bank for International Settlements
and laid the groundwork for the newly formed
Financial Stability Forum
, aimed at increasing transparency and cooperation throughout the international financial system.
A Hawkish Dove?
Still, Welteke is a political insider who has served as economy and finance minister in the past. He is a close friend of Eichel, a relationship that bodes well for cooperation between the Bundesbank and the government. That will be a welcome change from the acrimony shared by Tietmeyer and interventionist former Finance Minster
That cooperative spirit is evidenced in his past pronouncements that monetary policy should support government goals when possible.
He is seen as more likely to use interest rates to boost the economy than Tietmeyer, who was fixated on containing inflation and the strength of the mark, analysts say. But political necessity may force him to move to the middle.
"Although formerly regarded as more dovish, he has adopted the normal, more centrist central banker style in his comments
ever since it became clearer he would become the candidate to succeed Tietmeyer," says Marco Kramer, an economist for
Welteke is already making his mark on the ECB, even though he doesn't take his new position until Sept. 1. He is expected to urge a comprehensive overhaul of both the Bundesbank and the
European System of Central Banks
. In January he suggested allotting various countries specific specialties and responsibilities.
"The organizational principles of the Bundesbank are still oriented on
German state borders, while our duties no longer are," Welteke explained. As for the national central banks, he suggested the possibility of "the Austrians
focusing on Eastern Europe and the Bundesbank on the international financial markets. Does every central bank have to analyze everything?"
Maybe not. And while his appointment may have been obscured by the other big events of the day, Welteke may yet have his day in the spotlight.