German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is highly likely to become chairman of the Eurogroup countries, half a dozen officials in Brussels and other capitals have told Reuters, although a decision may not be finalised until June.

The appointment would give Germany control over the agenda of monthly meetings of euro zone finance ministers, although conversely it might also cramp Schaeuble's style as he would have to act on behalf of all 17 euro area countries.

The position is one of the most influential in European decision-making and would institutionalise German leadership in the battle to resolve the sovereign debt crisis.

It is also one of a series of interconnected posts, including a key position within the European Central Bank, which are up for grabs.

The main question mark was over Schaeuble's appetite for the job but one source who has worked closely with him for years said he wanted it.

A senior EU official with direct knowledge of the decision-making process said that in theory Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the current Eurogroup chairman, was still in the running, but Juncker has repeatedly said he does not want to continue and his candidacy is not considered viable.

If Schaeuble wants the post, then he's definitely going to get it, the official said.

Juncker has held the job for 7-1/2 years and has consistently complained about health issues and tiredness after two years of trying to resolve the sovereign debt crisis.

Sources in Berlin said the German finance ministry was already making arrangements for Schaeuble to take over the responsibilities of organising the Eurogroup, which officials say demands anything up to three hours of extra work a day.

Berlin recently received very positive signals from Brussels and other European capitals, an official close to the finance ministry told Reuters.

Euro zone finance ministers will discuss the issue at a meeting in Copenhagen this weekend. While they may informally endorse Schaeuble then, his appointment is part of a wider package of jobs that need to be filled and the puzzle is unlikely to be completed until May or June.

The most critical of the other posts to be filled is a seat on the ECB board. That is widely expected to go to Luxembourg central bank governor Yves Mersch, sources say, with Spain having effectively withdrawn its candidate.

Mersch is seen as a traditionalist sympathetic with the German approach to monetary policymaking.

The other two positions are the head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the permanent euro zone bailout fund that will come into force from July.

Germany's Thomas Mirow is the outgoing head of the EBRD, which unlike the other posts is not a euro zone position but one that represents all 27 EU countries and 35 others. As a result, that appointment has been de-linked from the others.

There are five candidates to take over the EBRD job, with Mirow putting himself forward for a second four-year term despite not having the backing of the German government.

The other candidates are from Poland, Serbia, Britain and France. The position has traditionally gone to a French or German candidate, but officials say that Britain's nominee, Suma Chakrabarti, is a strong candidate and a frontrunner.

If he were to be selected, it might frustrate France, which would be left without a position in the latest shake-up of top EU jobs. France is pushing to hold off on a final decision until after presidential elections are over in early May.


The officials Reuters has spoken to say Spain will get the post of ESM chief, and Madrid has said it wants to appoint a woman to the position. The leading name circulating is Belen Romana Garcia, a former director of the Spanish treasury and former board member of the Bank of Spain.

The most likely scenario at this moment seems that Germany gets the Eurogroup, Spain the ESM, Luxembourg the ECB job and a Brit gets the EBRD, said a euro zone official who, like the others Reuters has spoken to, asked not be quoted because of the delicacy of what ultimately are political discussions.

The issue will be discussed at the informal Ecofin in Copenhagen because it is when ministers are to decide on the ECB job and that is linked to the rest. Juncker seems to genuinely be tired of the Eurogroup job, he has been doing it for a long time.

While Schaeuble is an experienced and respected finance minister, his appointment to head the Eurogroup would not be universally welcomed as he has frequently adopted hardline positions during the debt crisis that have aggravated some countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

It is also not clear how comfortable Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council and the head of euro zone heads of state, will feel if Schaeuble does get the job.

Officials close to Van Rompuy have indicated that he would rather not have someone too outspoken as head of the Eurogroup as it could establish rival power centres sending contradictory messages to markets.

Appointing Schaeuble as head the Eurogroup would also increase German policymaking influence, with Germans already serving in senior positions at the Eurogroup Working Group, the European Investment Bank and the euro zone's temporary bailout fund, the EFSF.

These jobs are about perception and national pride, a senior official in Brussels said. Initially the idea was to find a national and political equilibrium among the jobs but that is now proving hard to stick to.

(Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Julien Toyer in Madrid and Annika Breidthardt in Berlin. Writing by Luke Baker, editing by Mike Peacock)