Wim Duisenberg

His Excellency
Wim Duisenberg

Wim Duisenberg in 2001
President of the European Central Bank
In office
1 July 1998  1 November 2003
Vice President Christian Noyer (1998–2002)
Lucas Papademos (2002–2003)
Succeeded by Jean-Claude Trichet
President of the European Monetary Institute
In office
1 July 1997  1 July 1998
Preceded by Alexandre Lamfalussy
Succeeded by Position abolished
President of the Central Bank of the Netherlands
In office
1 January 1982  1 July 1997
Preceded by Jelle Zijlstra
Succeeded by Nout Wellink
Member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
16 January 1978  28 June 1978
In office
8 June 1977  8 September 1977
Minister of Finance of the Netherlands
In office
11 May 1973  19 December 1977
Prime Minister Joop den Uyl
Preceded by Roelof Nelissen
Succeeded by Frans Andriessen
Personal details
Born Willem Frederik Duisenberg
(1935-07-09)9 July 1935
Heerenveen, Netherlands
Died 31 July 2005(2005-07-31) (aged 70)
Faucon, Vaucluse, France
Nationality Dutch
Political party Labour Party (from 1959)
Spouse(s) Tine Stelling
(m. 1960–1980; divorced)
Gretta Nieuwenhuizen
(m. 1987–2005; his death)
Children Pieter Duisenberg (born 1967)
One daughter and one other son
Alma mater University of Groningen (Bachelor of Economics, Master of Economics, Doctor of Philosophy)
Occupation Politician
Civil servant
Corporate director
Financial adviser

Willem Frederik "Wim" Duisenberg (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈʋɪləm ˈfreːdəˌrɪk ʋɪm ˈdœysənˌbɛrx]; 9 July 1935 – 31 July 2005) was a Dutch politician of the Labour Party (PvdA).

Duisenberg, an economist by occupation, worked for the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank of the Netherlands from 1966 until 1970. Duisenberg became a professor of Macroeconomics at the University of Amsterdam in 1970. After the Dutch general election of 1972 Duisenberg was asked by the Labour Party (PvdA) to become Minister of Finance in the Cabinet Den Uyl under Prime Minister Joop den Uyl. Duisenberg accepted and resigned as a professor the day the Cabinet Den Uyl was installed on 11 May 1973. Duisenberg remained Minister of Finance until the Cabinet Van Agt I was installed on 19 December 1977. He was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives after Dutch general election of 1977, serving from 8 June 1977 until 8 September 1977 and from 16 January 1978 until 28 June 1978.

After his secretaryship, Duisenberg worked for the Central Bank of the Netherlands from 1 Augustus 1978 until 1 January 1982 when he became the President of the Central Bank of the Netherlands serving until 1 July 1997 when he became the President of the European Monetary Institute which later became the European Central Bank (ECB). Duisenberg served as the first President of the European Central Bank from 1 July 1998 until 1 November 2003. He was instrumental in the introduction of the euro in the European Union in 2002.

Duisenberg retired from active politics at the age of sixty-eight. Following the end of his active political career, Duisenberg occupied numerous seats on supervisory boards in the business and industry world and international non-governmental organizations (Air France–KLM, Rabobank, Rijksmuseum and the Bilderberg Group).[1]

Duisenberg was known for his distinct Frisian accent and his abilities as an acclaimed financier and renowned economist were greatly admired.[2]

Early life and education

Willem Frederik Duisenberg was born on 9 July 1935 in the Frisian city of Heerenveen in the Netherlands.[3] He was the son Lammert Duisenberg, who was a waterworks supervisor, and Antje Ykema.[4] He went to a public primary school in his hometown. He went to secondary school, first one year of hogere burgerschool and then gymnasium with natural sciences, also in Heerenveen.[3]

In 1954, Duisenberg moved to Haren. He studied at the University of Groningen in Groningen from 1954 to 1961, where he received his doctorandus degree (equivalent of M.Sc.) cum laude in economics, majoring in international relations. He was a member of Groninger Studentencorps Vindicat atque Polit. In 1959, he became a member of the Labour Party. In 1960, he married Tine Stelling.[3]

In 1965, he obtained his doctor degree (equivalent of Ph.D.) with his thesis De economische gevolgen van de ontwapening (The economic consequences of the disarmament) under the supervision of professor F. J. de Jong.[3]


Wim Duisenberg as Minister of Finance in 1975.

Duisenberg subsequently worked for the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C. for years followed by a year as an advisor to the director of the Nederlandsche Bank, the Dutch central bank in Amsterdam. He was then appointed a professor at the University of Amsterdam where he taught macroeconomics.

From 1973 to 1977, Duisenberg was Minister of Finance under Prime Minister Joop den Uyl, Shortly afterwards, he gave up his seat in the Dutch parliament to become vice president of Rabobank, a Dutch bank. Two years later, he was appointed director of the Nederlandsche Bank, serving as its president from 1982 to 1997.

His tenure at the Dutch central bank was marked by caution and reserve. Under his direction, the Dutch guilder was linked to the German Deutsche Mark, and this benefited the Dutch economy, owing to the strength of the German currency. He also followed German central bank's interest rate policies closely, which earned him the nickname "Mr Fifteen Minutes" because he quickly followed any interest rate changes made by the Deutsche Bundesbank.

First president of the European Central Bank

Wim Duisenberg and Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa in 2000.

Owing to the success of his monetary policy, he became well known in other European countries, and this led to his appointment in 1998 as the first president of the new European Central Bank in Frankfurt, much to the chagrin of France, who wanted a French candidate. A compromise was agreed upon (although publicly denied by all parties) whereby Duisenberg would serve for at least four years, upon which the Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet, director of the Banque de France, would take over. In 1999, Duisenberg received the Vision for Europe Award in recognition of his efforts toward the unification of Europe.

During his tenure at the bank, Dr. Duisenberg was known for his cautious monetary policy and for defending the euro through its early years. He sometimes frustrated investors and politicians by sticking to the bank's inflation-fighting stance, keeping rates higher than some would have liked. "I hear, but I don't listen" to such pleas, was one of his typically blunt responses. Dr. Duisenberg repeatedly said it was up to European governments to pursue structural changes such as loosening rigid rules on hiring and firing personnel if they wanted more growth.

Duisenberg announced he would retire on 9 July 2003 (his 69th birthday), but he remained in office until Trichet was cleared of charges of fraud in connection with the collapse of the French bank Crédit Lyonnais. Trichet took over presidency of the ECB on 1 November 2003.


Duisenberg's grave at Zorgvlied in Amsterdam in 2006

Duisenberg died in 2005 at the age of 70 while on vacation at his villa in Faucon near Orange, France. He drowned in his swimming pool after suffering a heart attack. A commemoration service was held on 6 August 2005 in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Duisenberg was buried later that day in the Zorgvlied cemetery in Amsterdam.[5][6]



  1. "Former Steering Committee Members". bilderbergmeetings.org. Bilderberg Group. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  2. "Wim Duisenberg (70) overleden" (in Dutch), RTL Nieuws, 2005.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Dr. W.F. (Wim) Duisenberg (in Dutch), Parlement & Politiek. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  4. "Duisenberg: wetenschapper, minister, centraal bankier en bemiddelaar" (in Dutch), NRC Handelsblad, 2005. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  5. "Obituary: Wim Duisenberg", BBC News, 2005.
  6. Mark Landler, "New York Times Obituary: Wim Duisenberg", The New York Times, 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
Government offices
Preceded by
Roelof Nelissen
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Frans Andriessen
Civic offices
Preceded by
Jelle Zijlstra
President of the Central Bank of the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Nout Wellink
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Alexandre Lamfalussy
2nd President of the European Monetary Institute
Merged into the European Central Bank
New institution 1st President of the European Central Bank
Succeeded by
Jean-Claude Trichet
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