Honouring Hans Tietmeyer at 85

"The bottom line is to have the courage to stick to your guns – even if not everyone applauds you for it," Hans Tietmeyer says in a conversation with UK publisher David Marsh. This principled approach shaped and guided the negotiating and leadership style of the former Bundesbank President, who vigorously defended the stability of the German D-Mark. It also meant that he sometimes made decisions and took up positions that did not please everyone. For instance, under his stewardship the Deutsche Bundesbank's policymaking Central Bank Council rejected a request from German finance minister Theo Waigel in May 1997 to frontload valuation gains on the gold reserves in support of the Federal budget.

In international negotiations, too, he invariably staked out and stuck to a clear line. At the same time he always made an effort to understand and empathise with his partners' positions. "It is both senseless and useless to pretend that any one country has a monopoly on the truth," he notes, thereby summarising his own basic stance and the sole promising path to bringing tough talks and even heated clashes to a fruitful conclusion. 

In 1990 at the age of 59 he joined the Bundes‑bank's Directorate (executive board). Four months later German Chancellor Helmut Kohl entrusted him with the key mission, as the Chancellor's special envoy, of heading the negotiations with representatives of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) on establishing a currency union between western and eastern Germany. He temporarily relinquished his seat on the Bundesbank board during this three-month mission. 

Turbulent times

In July 1991, Hans Tietmeyer began a two-year stint as Vice-President of the Bundesbank, before succeeding Helmut Schlesinger as President on 1 October 1993. His appointment as the Bundesbank's President coincided with a turbulent time on the road to European monetary union. For instance, the European Monetary System was buffeted by repeated tensions in 1992 and 1993.

Steadfast views

Hans Tietmeyer adopted clear positions on European monetary union, and during the 1990s never tired of emphasising the need for candidate countries to lastingly satisfy the prescribed convergence criteria. Right from the start he pointed out that the political will of all EU member states was a crucial prerequisite for a sustainably stable common currency, a view he has held unswervingly to this day. "Cooperation and harmonisation across policy areas is necessary to make a currency union work in the long run. Unfortunately, this has not happened in Europe to the extent required," he states in the interview, cautioning against transforming European monetary union into a transfer union.

Prior to joining the Bundesbank, Hans Tietmeyer was already involved in early efforts to create a European monetary union as a delegate of the Federal Ministry of Economics within the Werner Group, which in 1970 presented a roadmap to introducing a currency union. In 1973 he became head of the Economic Policy I Division at the Federal Ministry of Economics, where he had been working since 1962. In 1982 he was appointed State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance and, in this role, conducted negotiations on international monetary issues and global financial relations. 

The euro was introduced in 1999, initially as an accounting unit. A few months later, Hans Tietmeyer retired as Bundesbank President. Newspapers in Germany and abroad hailed him as "the last guardian of the D-Mark".