The EU legislators requested from the member states on Tuesday (27 February) improvements to the selection process of the bloc’s top posts before giving their blessing to the appointment of Luis de Guindos as ECB vice-president.
The European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee supported a last-minute demand introduced by French Socialist Pervenche Berès during the vote.
Beres warned that her group would turn the abstention into a rejection if member states do not discuss with the MEPs their concerns related to the nomination process of the bloc’s top echelons.
Beres told Euractiv that before the plenary vote in March the Parliament “wants to see if the Council is serious about entering the discussion” to improve the process. Its members want to achieve some results, in terms of gender balance or the timeline, Beres said.
Otherwise, the process is “just bullshit”, she emphasised.
The legislators set as a deadline for this discussion the plenary vote on 12-15 March, when the MEPs would vote on De Guindos’s nomination.
Meanwhile, the committee chairman, Roberto Gualtieri, will send a letter to Eurogroup president Mario Centeno and European Council President Donald Tusk with more details about the Parliament’s demands.
The MEPs’ opposition would lead to a negative opinion on the Spanish Economic Affairs minister’s appointment. But the Parliament’s position is not binding according to the treaties, as the EU leaders are expected to endorse De Guindos during the 22-23 March summit.
De Guindos should succeed Portuguese Vítor Constâncio as Mario Draghi’s ‘number two’ on 1 June.
The Spaniard got a temporary ‘green-light’ by MEPs, as his approval was supported by 27 votes, with 14 against (primarily left-wing parties) and 13 abstentions from S&D.
For Beres, De Guindos is not the right person for the post. “Of course not,” she replied- “maybe he knows something about economic governance, but his responses about monetary policy were an endorsement of Draghi’s decision or that the ECB would look into the issue in the future”.
The deep division between those in favour and those who did not support his candidacy illustrated how controversial not only his nomination but the whole process has become.
Beres’ amendment, attached to the voting list, was supported by the largest parties of the chamber: EPP, the conservatives (ECR) and the liberals (ALDE), besides the Socialists.
It says that “the European Parliament expresses concerns regarding gender balance, the selection procedure, the timing of the appointment and political independence; requests that the Council engages in a dialogue with the Parliament as regards how to improve the process for the upcoming appointments.”
Stan Jourdan, head of Positive Money Europe, and advocacy group, said that the current process is flawed from A to Z, in particular because it sidelines the European Parliament.
“There is much room in the treaty provisions to improve this process, in particular to make sure the Parliament is allowed to give its formal opinion on several candidates and not just the Eurogroup’s favourite.”
It is not the first time that the MEPs expressed their concerns in regards to the selection of the EU institutions’ chiefs.
The Parliament dragged its feet in 2012 on validating Yves Mersch, another member of the ECB’s Executive Board.
The institution rejected the Luxemburgish central banker in protest against the lack of female candidates for the post.
Mersch precisely took over from Spain’s representative on the Board, Jose Manuel González Paramo. Spain’s exit from the Executive Board represented a serious blow to the fourth largest eurozone economy.
According to a non-written agreement, Germany, France, Italy and Spain should hold one of the six chairs of the Executive Board.
De Guindos wrote in his book that former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble had told him in early 2012 that Germany would support Luxembourg instead of Spain. The reason was partly Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s defiance of the EU fiscal rules.
Speaking to MEPs on Monday in a public hearing, De Guindos argued that gender balance has been of utmost importance for him as he noted that six out of eight top posts in his ministry were women.
He also said that he is a “staunch defender” of the independence of central banks. Many in Brussels and in Frankfurt criticised his unprecedented move from a ministry to the ECB’s top body.
The grilling was nevertheless less controversial than expected as most of the questions were on monetary policy or the eurozone reform.
During the first closed-door hearing, the MEPs concluded that his rival, Irish central banker Philip Lane, performed better.
But he was blamed for not improving Spain’s economic model or his involvement in some of the savings banks rescued by the Spanish government.
In one of the tensest moments, Beres told him that he was a member of a government ruled by a party in which “envelopes” with corrupted money circulated.
De Guindos replied that he was not a member of any party list and recalled that he did not hold any seat in the Parliament.