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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 July 2005, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Obituary: Wim Duisenberg
Wim Duisenberg unveils the first euro notes, August 2001
He was a tireless advocate of Europe's single currency
Wim Duisenberg, the former European Central Bank chief who helped create the euro currency, has been found dead.

The 70-year-old drowned following cardiac problems at his house in France, a regional prosecutor said.

The former Dutch finance minister was the ECB's first president, and oversaw the introduction of the single European currency in 2002.

He had stepped down in 2003 after five years in the job.

"Mr Duisenberg contributed with force and conviction to the success of one of the most significant projects of recent European history," said Joaquin Almunia, European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs.

Euro fan

Under Mr Duisenberg, the euro evolved from being only a market-traded currency into coins and notes in the pockets of people in 12 European countries.

A warm, captivating man and a great banker
Dutch Central Bank statement
His finest moment came when he presided over its launch as a cash currency used by 300 million people across the eurozone from 1 January 2002.

Within two months the changeover had been completed, with little of the chaos and confusion that had been predicted by his critics.

Mr Duisenberg was tireless in his promotion of the single currency.

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel credited him with creating and cementing public confidence in the euro.

His backing reflected the views of the political generation that had lived through the tribulations of World War II, and then experienced the unprecedented prosperity of the post-war years.

Blunt style

Germany and France wrangled over Mr Duisenberg's appointment in 1998, but with strong German backing he became first ECB president.

But in the highly political atmosphere of the ECB, Mr Duisenberg often appeared awkward at handling the press and presenting the ECB's case, and disdainful of politicians.

He once famously said "I hear but I don't listen" when asked about pleas to cut interest rates.

The ECB cut interest rates in the euro countries to their lowest level since World War II under Mr Duisenberg.

But critics said the slowdown in the eurozone would not have been so severe if he had cut rates sooner and more aggressively.

Dutch roots

Born in 1935, Mr Duisenberg worked for the International Monetary Fund before serving as his country's finance minister from 1973 and 1977.

It was his role as the head of the Dutch Central Bank for 11 years, when he presided over the country's economic miracle, that made his reputation.

The combination of stable prices and interest rates, low unemployment, and high growth was the model he wanted to apply to Europe.

Mr Duisenberg was a golfing enthusiast who once missed a meeting with bankers to compete in a Spanish tournament.

He had married twice, and had three grown children.

"A warm, captivating man and a great banker has passed away," the Dutch Central Bank said.

"Wim Duisenberg meant a lot for the Netherlands and Europe."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
A look back at the career of Wim Duisenberg



SEE ALSO:
Ex-ECB chief found dead in pool
31 Jul 05 |  Business


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