The European Parliament voted narrowly on Thursday (25 October) to reject the nomination of Luxembourg’s central banker to the European Central Bank executive body, saying not enough effort was made to find a female candidate for what is now an all-male club.
The action came two days after the European Commission scrapped plans to announce a draft law aimed at diversifying the gender ratio of corporate boards for lack of support with in the EU executive, including several of its nine female members.
The nominee for the ECB, Yves Mersch, has been governor of Luxembourg’s central bank since 1998 and is a current member of the ECB’s governing council, headed by ECB President Mario Draghi. Mersch was nominated to fill a post on the six-member executive board.
The vote against Mersch, 325-300 with 49 abstentions, is non-binding and it remains up to the 17 eurozone countries to decide who sits on the executive council. But it followed a storm of controversy over the Commission’s decision to postpone efforts to improve the gender make-up of corporate boards, with Justice Commission Viviane Reding cancelling an announcement on a legislative proposal for a gender quota on Tuesday in Strasbourg.
“European institutions should be leading by example, not dragging their feet”, British MEP Sharon Bowles, a Liberal-Democrat who chairs the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said after the vote.
The European People’s Party, the centre-right group in the European Parliament, had strongly backed Mersch’s nomination.
“We voted in favour as we are fully convinced that Mr Mersch is of recognised standing and has the professional qualifications and experience in monetary and banking matters needed to exercise the functions of a member of the executive board of the ECB. The European Union needs stability in these times of crisis and the European Central Bank has a crucial role to play," said Joseph Daul, EPP chairman.
British Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis also criticised the vote. "In the middle of the euro crisis, it is irresponsible play gender politics with an appointment to the ECB board,” she said in a statement. "EU citizens – men and women alike – will not thank MEPs for procrastinating and posturing as the economic slump deepens."
The ECB executive council post has been vacant since May, when The position has been vacant since José Manuel González-Páramo left in May.
In contrast to the current all-male ECB board, Figures released by Reding’s office say 86.5% of board members and 97.5% of board chairs in the EU are men. In September 2010, the Commission adopted a Gender Equality Strategy aimed at boosting gender diversity in corporations.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), reacted to press reports that Angela Merkel intends to push ahead with the appointment of Yves Mersch to the vacant position on the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB).
"Angela Merkel's statements dismissing Parliament's calls for some gender balance at the ECB are a provocation. Though legally the Council has the right to nominate and appoint the candidates, politically it cannot overlook Parliament's opinion, especially when it concerns such a fundamental issue as equal opportunities."