Spain’s Calvino boasts ‘key role’ in Eurogroup to support her candidacy

Nadia Calviño, Spanish Minister for Economic Affairs and Digital Transition; and Mario Centeno, President of the Eurogroup, during a EU finance ministers meeting in January. [Council]

Spain’s economy minister, Nadia Calviño, highlighted her “key role” in preparing the Eurogroup’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, as eurozone finance ministers prepare to pick a new president in early July.

Calviño, who is also deputy prime minister in the Spanish government, is seen as a frontrunner to succeed Portugal’s outgoing finance minister, Mario Centeno, at the Eurogroup’s helm.

Centeno announced earlier this week that he will leave the ministry and end his Eurogroup presidency on 13 July.

Eurozone finance ministers discussed on Thursday (11 June) the process to pick their new president. Centeno said after the meeting that the official call for candidates would be launched “shortly”, and ministers would have until 25 June to send a motivation letter backing their candidacies.

The election is foreseen for 9 July, a senior eurozone official said. 

Mario Centeno quits Eurogroup post, Portuguese government

Portuguese Finance Minister Mário Centeno, the Eurogroup’s president, has resigned from government, following a period of less than idyllic relations with Prime Minister António Costa, and will be replaced by state secretary for budget João Leão.

Speaking ahead of the Eurogroup meeting, Calviño told reporters that the reason why she was seen as a candidate was the “key role” that Spain played in preparing the EU’s economic response against the coronavirus, in particular the €540 billion triple safety net of liquidity to support companies, workers and member states.

“Spain has played a key role, and I say this from the most personal modesty, but also from the conviction that this has been the case,” she said.

She added that EU institutions and eurozone partners’ “recognition” for that role explained why her name was cropping up in Brussels and in the international media.

Eurogroup agrees on €540 billion corona-package

The Eurogroup finally agreed on a €500 billion package to support member states, companies and workers in the coronavirus crisis, after The Netherlands and Italy overcame they differences. Leaders will discuss in the coming days the recovery plan and the possibility of ‘coronabonds’.

Still, Calviño did not confirm her candidacy yet, adding that the decision would bet taken in the coming days by Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, “taking into account the public interest and the best decision for Spain.”

She did not clarify whether she was officially running for the position and had already contacted colleagues to seek their support, or whether other EU countries would be ready to back her.

Calviño, who was a former Director-General of the European Commission, has a good reputation in Brussels and other capitals.

She is seen as a “strong candidate” who has good chances of becoming the first woman to lead the Eurogroup, an EU official said.

Her profile, coming from a Socialist government from a Southern member state, also matches Centeno’s, as the need to maintain the balance between regions and political families will be taken into account.

Asked about her candidacy, Centeno did not want to speak about any of his potential successors, only saying that there are “a lot of qualities” within the current Eurogroup members.

Some other names making the rounds include Irish finance minister Paschal Donohoe and Luxembourgish finance minister Pierre Gramegna, one of the most senior Eurogroup members who already ran against Centeno the last time.

The winner will have to pass a series of votes to exclude candidates until there are only two left. Once the two finalists are identified, a simple majority vote (10 of the 19 Eurogroup members) will be held to decide who will be the next Eurogroup president, for a two and a half year mandate.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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