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European parliament chief sees deal on Mersch for ECB

European Parliament President Martin Schulz answers questions during a Reuters interview in Berlin October 15, 2012. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz
European Parliament President Martin Schulz answers questions during a Reuters interview in Berlin October 15, 2012. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

BERLIN (Reuters) - A deal to appoint Luxembourg's Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank's board could be clinched this week, the head of the European parliament said on Monday, ending a standoff that has deprived Germany's Bundesbank of a powerful ally at the heart of the ECB.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told Reuters that both he and European Council chief Herman Van Rompuy would acknowledge the controversy that has held up the appointment - the absence of any women policymakers on the ECB board - by raising the issue at a European Union summit on Thursday.

"We also expect the summit to state that the balanced distribution of leading posts between the genders will be strictly observed in future," he told Reuters in Berlin.

"If we come to a positive agreement, I believe the appointment of Mr Mersch can go ahead," said Schulz.

The Bundesbank has lacked a close ally on the six-member Executive Board since German Juergen Stark quit last year. Mersch is an inflation-fighting hardliner whose policy views are close to those of the German central bank.

Lawmakers from six of the largest political blocs in the EU assembly want Mersch rejected because of what they call systemic gender bias in the ECB. While the parliament cannot block his appointment, it would be difficult without lawmakers' consent.

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday Mersch was set to be appointed to the ECB board despite opposition from the parliament.

ECB President Mario Draghi said last week it was especially important in times of crisis for the Executive Board to have its full complement of members.

A hearing into Mersch's candidacy, proposed by euro zone finance ministers in July, is due on October 22.

The ECB's last female policymaker, Austria's Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, left in 2011.

(Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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