German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed that her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, head the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, a newspaper said on Friday, a move that would bolster Berlin's domination of the single-currency bloc.
Quoting unnamed sources in Brussels and other EU capitals, the Financial Times Deutschland said Merkel wanted Schaeuble to succeed Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker as Eurogroup chairman when his term ends in June.
He (Schaeuble) holds the best cards at the moment, the paper quoted one source as saying.
If appointed, Schaeuble, 69, would remain German finance minister but would clearly have less time to devote to domestic affairs, the paper said.
The identity of Juncker's successor - one of several senior positions in the euro zone coming up for grabs - has recently become the object of heightened speculation.
This week, speaking at a joint news conference in Rome with Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is also economy minister, ruled out a suggestion that he might take on the job, saying he had enough responsibilities already.
Merkel has declined to comment publicly on who might replace Juncker. EU officials have told Reuters Monti has not been offered the job and that several candidates are in the frame.
It is also possible that Juncker may carry on for another term, though he has said he does not want to keep the job.
Schaeuble himself said in an interview for the Greek newspaper To Vima published last weekend that euro zone countries with a top credit rating might have a bigger say in the talks to replace Juncker.
Four of the euro zone's 17 members currently have a triple-A rating - Germany, Luxembourg, Finland and the Netherlands.
The prospect of Schaeuble, steward of Europe's largest economy, taking the reins would raise the international profile and clout of the Eurogroup as it tries to rebuild the euro's credibility after Greece's sovereign debt crisis.
But such a prospect may stir unease in some EU capitals already wary of Berlin's growing influence over economic policy.
(French President Nicolas) Sarkozy fears the German position may become too strong. Since it became clear that Merkel is taking soundings for Schaeuble, Sarkozy's rejection of (a second term for) Juncker has changed, the paper quoted Eurogroup sources as saying.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)