German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday endorsed Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos to become the next president of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, during a visit to Spain.
Her trip comes ahead of a European Union summit on Saturday at which leaders are to seek consensus on top appointments to the bloc, as part of a leadership overhaul following European elections in May.
De Guindos has previously been touted as a frontrunner to lead the Eurogroup. The appointment would be politically delicate, however, since current chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s term ends only in July 2015.
At a press conference on Monday, Merkel hailed Spain’s economic reforms and expressed support for de Guindos, who is expected to be formally nominated for the post by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
De Guindos is considered the architect of Spain’s recovery from the financial crisis that began in 2008. A former corporate boss, he led massive bank restructuring and took a hardline approach to austerity.
“De Guindos was a good minister in difficult times,” Merkel said. She lauded the Spanish model of recovery as exemplary for other nations struggling to spark economic growth.
“There have been several quarters of growth in Spain and the unemployment rate is decreasing,” Merkel said. “It is the result of tough reforms … we respect it highly and we are willing to support Spain’s path.”
Within the context of a Europe-wide economic slowdown that includes a contraction in German growth, both leaders expressed their support for a conservative-minded approach to economic policies.
“After a long time of recession, Spain is growing again,” Rajoy said. “But we must continue on the path of reform. It is the only guarantee against repeating errors and falling into imbalance.”