EU backs Wolfowitz for World Bank job

European ministers gave the green light for US nominee Paul Wolfowitz to take over as head of the World Bank after hearing soothing assurances on fighting poverty from the architect of the Iraq war.

    Paul Wolfowitz (R) pledged to form a multinational senior team

    The US deputy secretary of defence came to Brussels on the eve of a World Bank board meeting that will pick a successor to James Wolfensohn, the veteran outgoing head of an institution that lends to the world's poorest nations.
    Wolfowitz stressed on Wednesday his commitment to the mission of fighting poverty in a statement after the talks, promising to consult Europe and ensure it had a proper say in the bank's management.
    EC reassured

    The executive European Commission said it was happy with the commitments that Wolfowitz had given EU finance and development officials and Germany said it expected EU governors to back him.
    Commissioner Olli Rehn "was satisfied with everything he heard from Mr Wolfowitz concerning free trade and also on poverty reduction and development policy," a spokeswoman said. 
    Wolfowitz, more widely associated with the unilateral use of US military power than with development policy, said he knew his neo-conservative image worried some in Europe.
    "I understand that I'm, to put it mildly, a controversial figure," he told a news conference. "But as people get to know me better, they will understand that I really do believe deeply in the mission of the bank."
    Germans come around

    German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who had voiced open scepticism when President George Bush first nominated the outspoken hawk, told reporters after the meeting: "I expect that he will get the European and German support." 

    "I understand that I'm, to put it mildly, a controversial figure"

    Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank nominee

    Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who led the meeting as EU president, described Wolfowitz repeatedly as "the incoming president of the World Bank".
    He arranged the talks, which included big donors but non-EU members Switzerland and Norway, in response to private unease among European governments.

    The American's willingness to cross the Atlantic at short notice was seen as a goodwill gesture. Some present spoke of a charm offensive by Wolfowitz.
    Wolfowitz's cautious dance

    "He played it very carefully ... he wasn't arrogant," Belgian Development and Cooperation Minister Armand de Decker said. "He said a lot of things during the discussion to please Europe." 
    Swedish International Development Minister Carin Jamtin said Wolfowitz would be held to account on his frequent assertions that he would consult widely and adopt a multilateral approach.
    "He has said these things so often in public, in interviews and in meetings like these that there will be many of us to remind him of what he said," she told Reuters after the talks.
    However, aid agency ActionAid said in a statement that it feared

    Wolfowitz would thwart a high-profile plan by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to cut African debt and would insist poor countries privatise and deregulate industries.
    France's deputy pick

    The Europeans want a larger role in running the bank, but diplomats said there had been no talk of specific posts. France had floated the head of the Paris Club of creditor nations, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, to be Wolfowitz's deputy, they said.

    Paul Wolfowitz is a key architect
    of the US war on Iraq

    One EU diplomat said Wolfowitz had given no pledge to appoint a European deputy "but I think he understood us". 
    There was no mention of any other trade-off for European backing at a time when EU leaders are trying to mend fences with Washington after the Iraq war.
    Diplomats noted the EU also sought US support for its candidate to head the World Trade Organisation, former European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, while individual EU states also wanted backing for their candidates to head the UN Development Programme and for UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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