The European Parliament approved the appointment of Spain’s former Economy Minister Luis de Guindos as ECB vice-president but sent a warning signal to governments to improve the nomination process.
De Guindos got the ‘green light’ with 331 votes in favour, 306 against and 64 abstentions.
He is expected to take over from Vítor Constâncio on 31 May, once the EU leaders confirm his appointment next week during the European Council.
The assembly’s left-wing factions, including almost all the national delegations of the Socialists, opposed the nomination. Only S&D’s Spanish and Portuguese members abstained.
The narrowness of the vote was partly because of De Guindos’ profile and the nomination process.
MEPs criticized the political background of the candidate and the eurozone governments’ unprecedented decision to send a serving minister directly to the central bank’s Executive Board.
Legislators also expressed their discomfort at the lack of transparency during the discussion of potential candidates for the post. Some members said that De Guindos’ appointment was part of a deal between Germany and Spain that returns a Spanish candidate to the ECB’s executive board in exchange for smoothing the path for a German candidate to take over the ECB’s presidency from Mario Draghi in November 2019.
De Guindos’ only rival, Irish central bank governor Philip Lane, withdrew its candidacy before a decision was taken by eurozone finance ministers.
Following the Parliament’s exchanges with De Guindos “we indicated our concerns about the selection procedure, the timeline of the process, the political independence of one of the candidates, and the issue of gender balance,” said French Socialist Pervenche Berès.
She introduced an amendment during the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee’s vote last month requesting some improvements to the process.
But the member states only responded a few moments before the final vote.
“In the current situation, the S&D Group have no other option than to reject Mr de Guindos’ appointment to the ECB,” she added.
The Parliament requested a short-list of at least three candidates, including at least one woman, greater transparency in the selection process, and a guarantee that all candidates have “recognized standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters,” as the treaty requires.
The absence of various candidates at the Eurogroup’s table was compared with the controversial nomination of Martin Selmayr as European Commission’s secretary general.
“If we agree that the recruitment process of high-ranking positions such the Commission should involve the careful examination of at least two candidates, then there is little reason for not applying the same principle when it comes to the ECB’s board,” said Stanislas Jourdan, head of Positive Money Europe, a civil society organisation.
But the former member of Spain’s centre-right government was defended by his party colleagues.
“De Guindos exceeds the requirements, the qualifications and experience required to perform this important work, as recognized by the European Parliament with today’s vote, despite the attempts of the Socialists and the extreme left to block his appointment until the very last minute, ” said PP MEP Gabriel Mato.