© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – European Central Bank (ECB) executive board member Praet speaks during an interview with Reuters in Frankfurt

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone finance ministers will invite applications on Monday for the job of European Central Bank Chief Economist, replacing Peter Praet whose term ends on May 31, a senior euro zone official said on Thursday.

No candidates have been officially put forward yet, but Ireland’s central bank governor Philip Lane is widely seen as a favourite, in the race that will be decided by the ministers at their next meeting on Feb. 11.

“I have not heard about any other candidate … which does not mean that there will not be any other,” a second senior euro zone official involved in the process said. Two others also said they believed Lane stood the best chance at the moment.

On Feb. 11, finance ministers from the 19 countries using the euro will choose from among the candidates put forward.

If a vote is needed, the winner must get what is called a reinforced qualified majority, with at least 14 out of the 19 voting in favour, representing at least 65 percent of the population of the currency area.

The candidate will then go for a hearing in the European Parliament, which issues its non-binding opinion. The parliament’s negative opinions have been ignored in the past.

The candidate will be formally appointed by EU leaders at a summit on March 21-22, in a qualified majority vote, reflecting the economic size and populations of the voting countries.

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