Candidates for the ECB vice-presidency will start putting forward their names next week. For Spain, there is more at stake than meets the eye as it almost feels this is one of its last chances to regain some clout in Europe.
Despite its praiseworthy recovery seen over the past years, the fourth largest eurozone economy is underrepresented among the EU’s top brass.
The country also suffered a bitter defeat in failing to bring the European Medicines Agency to Barcelona. Although the city was largely seen as the favourite, the Catalan crisis eventually sent the powerful agency to Amsterdam.
The Spanish government now sees the vice-presidency of the central bank as the best opportunity to amend this situation, after the failed attempt to win the Eurogroup presidency in 2015.
Its economy minister Luis de Guindos, who lost the race at that time tot Jeroen Dijsselbloem despite taking the post almost for granted, is now saying that the ECB post would go “for sure” to a Spaniard.
Guindos himself is seen as the frontrunner, not least because he is the only candidate floated so far.
Last December, Rajoy did not want to confirm whether Guindos would be his choice.
The eurozone finance ministers will nominate their candidate during a Eurogroup meeting on 19 February. The EU leaders will formally confirm the winner by a qualified majority during the European Council in March.
Although Guindos, the most senior Eurogroup member, is seen as an efficient minister by his eurozone colleagues, he is not seen as the ideal choice within the ECB and the European Parliament, who have to be consulted in the process.
MEPs want a woman to succeed Vítor Constâncio in the post from 31 May, the chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee in the Parliament, Roberto Gualtieri, warned the Eurogroup president.
Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi is not fond of the idea of having a politician as his ‘number two’, according to European officials. The Italian is even less happy if that politician should be Guindos, they added.
The Parliament is also pushing for having a closed-door meeting with the shortlisted candidates in addition to the public hearing taking place once the Eurogroup selects a winner in February.
MEPs cannot veto the Eurogroup’s preferred name but they could delay the appointment – as they did in 2012 with the nomination of Yves Mersch as a member of the Executive Board precisely because of the lack of female candidates.
The Luxemburgish economist took over from José Manuel González Páramo in 2012. That was the beginning of the misery for Spain, not only because it came at the height of the economic crisis but also because the fourth largest eurozone economy could not retain a seat on the Executive Board.
According to the Lisbon treaty, members of the executive board must be “persons of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters”.
Guindos, who worked for Lehman Brothers in Europe before becoming minister, has yet to convince the sceptics that he is the man to stage Spain’s comeback after the financial crisis.
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Look out for…
MEPs are in Strasbourg for this year’s first plenary this week and will be addressed by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday.
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