BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Irish central bank chief Philip Lane is the sole candidate to replace Peter Praet as the European Central Bank's chief economist in May, virtually ensuring that a key ECB post will remain with a dovish policymaker.
Lane, 49, has led Ireland's central bank since 2015, overseeing solid growth in the Irish economy after an EU bailout in 2011-2014 that helped the country overcome its worst financial crisis since World War II.
"I have received one (nomination). Ireland proposed the Central Bank of Ireland Governor, Philip Lane," Mario Centeno, president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers from the 19 countries that use the euro, said in a statement on Wednesday.
While the nomination is still subject to confirmation, the process is likely to be just a formality as Lane is seen as an unquestionable authority on monetary policy.
Considered a dove closely aligned with ECB President Mario Draghi, Lane would be responsible for preparing monetary policy decision, one of the most vital positions at the bank.
Lane's candidacy is expected to be backed by the euro zone finance ministers at a meeting on Feb. 11 before his formal appointment by EU leaders at a summit in March.
His appointment would come at a crucial moment for the ECB, when the bank's plans for its first post-crisis rate hike are complicated by an unexpectedly sharp slowdown in the euro zone economy and persistently weak inflation.
Lane would join the ECB as the bank is also facing a broad reshuffle of its key positions, with Draghi's mandate ending in October, and Frenchman Benoit Coeure, who also sits on the six-person ECB board, due to leave in December.
Nearly a third of the 25-member Governing Council, which includes ECB board members and governors of national central banks, is also turned over this year, an unusually high ratio.
Besides the three board members, the central bank governors of Belgium, Austria, Estonia, Slovakia and Cyprus are all expected to be replaced this year.
The Irish finance ministry fully backed Lane's candidacy, saying he was an "ideal" candidate for the ECB job.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Catherine Evans)