Duisenberg, Wim


Duisenberg, Wim
▪ 2006
Willem Frederik Duisenberg 
      Dutch economist (b. July 9, 1935, Heerenveen, Neth.—d. July 31, 2005, Faucon, France), as the first president (1998–2003) of the European Central Bank (ECB), presided over the introduction (1999–2002) of the euro, the single currency that replaced the national currencies in 12 countries of the European Union. His calm demeanour and strong economic credentials were credited with helping to bring about a smooth transfer to the euro. After studying economics at the University of Groningen (Ph.D., 1965), Duisenberg worked (1965–69) at the International Monetary Fund and taught economics at the University of Amsterdam. He served as The Netherlands' finance minister (1973–77), governor (1982–97) of the Dutch central bank, and president (1997–98) of the European Monetary Institute, the forerunner of the ECB. Duisenberg's tenure at the ECB was not without controversy, and in 2003, five years into his statutory eight-year term, he fulfilled a campaign pledge to step down in favour of his French rival for the post, Jean-Claude Trichet.

▪ 1999

      Europe made a great stride toward achieving economic and monetary union, one of the primary goals set out in the Maastricht Treaty of 1991, with the establishment on July 1, 1998, of the European Central Bank (ECB). At the helm was Dutch banker Wim Duisenberg, who had been chosen two months earlier at the European Union (EU) summit meeting in Brussels on May 1-3. Duisenberg's immediate task was to shepherd in the arrival of the euro, the EU's new single currency, on Jan. 1, 1999.

      Although not well known outside banking circles, the tall, silver-haired Dutchman was considered eminently qualified to manage this historic transition. During his 15-year tenure as president of the Dutch central bank—a post he accepted in 1982—Duisenberg helped build The Netherlands into a nation with a vigorous economy that boasted a strong currency, low inflation and interest rates, and decreasing unemployment. In 1997 Duisenberg was elected president of the European Monetary Institute—the forerunner of the ECB—with the assurance that he would be a leading candidate for the position of president of the central bank. His candidacy did not go unchallenged, however, and his confirmation was anything but smooth. French Pres. Jacques Chirac led the battle over his appointment. In a politically charged maneuver, Chirac nominated the governor of the French central bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, to oppose Duisenberg. The dispute was resolved when Duisenberg agreed that he would step down after serving only four years of the eight-year term stipulated by the Maastricht Treaty—to make way for Trichet to take over.

      For the remainder of 1998, Duisenberg worked with a five-member board of the new central bank, which was based in Frankfurt, Ger., to address a number of key issues in preparation for the euro's introduction to 11 of the EU member states—Germany, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Austria, and Finland.

      Born Willem Frederik Duisenberg on July 9, 1935, in Heerenveen, Neth., he spent a portion of his early career in academia. After receiving a doctorate degree in economics from the State University of Groningen for his thesis on the economic results of disarmament, he served a four-year stint as a teaching assistant at the school. He left to join the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., in 1965, and from there, in 1969, went on to serve briefly as an advisor to the Dutch central bank. From 1970 to 1973 he was a professor of macroeconomics at the University of Amsterdam. At the age of 38, Duisenberg was appointed Dutch finance minister, a post he held until 1977 when he entered politics for a year as a Labour Party MP. He joined the board of the Dutch cooperative banking group Rabobank Nederland and remained there until 1982, when he returned to the Dutch central bank.

MARY JANE FRIEDRICH

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Universalium. 2010.

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