ECB’s Last Policy Maker From Founding Class of 1998 Exits Stage

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For the European Central Bank, Monday will mark the final passing of the baton from the institution’s founding generation to its present leadership as Yves Mersch leaves the Executive Board.

The 71-year-old Luxembourger is the only policy maker left of the original class of 17 Governing Council members who took charge of a fledgling currency project in 1998 and soon began setting interest rates throughout the euro zone.

Back then, Mersch had just transitioned from a career as a finance ministry official to become the first governor of Luxembourg’s central bank, an institution established in tandem with the single currency. He joined the ECB Executive Board in 2012 after a delay caused by the European Parliament’s demands for gender balance, and in 2019, he became vice chair of its Single Supervisory Mechanism.

Mersch’s 22 1/2-year stint as an ECB policy maker is far longer than that of any of his euro-area colleagues, but less remarkable in global terms. Romanian Governor Mugur Isarescu has held that job since 1990, aside from an 11-month interruption to serve as prime minister in 1999, while Riad Salameh and Elman Rustamov have led the central banks of Lebanon and Azerbaijan for almost 28 and 26 years, respectively.

It may be a while before another ECB policy maker beats Mersch’s record in Frankfurt. Executive Board members are limited to non-renewable terms of eight years. The longest-serving central-bank governor is Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, who took office in May 2011 — two months before his Dutch colleague Klaas Knot, followed by Bank of Italy chief Ignazio Visco that November.

— With assistance by Stephanie Bodoni

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