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28th Feb 2024

Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief

  • Spanish finance minister Nadia Calviño is also a former European Commission official (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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One of the EU's most important jobs will become vacant on 1 January, and most likely the presidency of the European Investment Bank (EIB) will be held for the very first time by a woman — Spanish finance minister Nadia Calviño.

Calviño's candidacy was put forward shortly after the Spanish elections back in July, when there were already four other candidates: Italy's Daniele Franco, Sweden's Thomas Östros, Poland's Teresa Czerwinska and Denmark's Margrethe Vestager (who left her post as vice-president of the EU Commission to run for the EIB presidency.)

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The man leading the selection process is Belgian finance minister Vincent van Peteghem, who last week sent a letter to his EU counterparts proposing Calviño for the post.

The move was viewed as an indication that van Peteghem's consultations had concluded that one candidate (the Spanish one) finally had enough support to be endorsed. Although the final discussion is expected at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels on Friday morning (8 December).

The in-extremis decision has been caused by the difficulties in securing the necessary support from member states to amass around one candidate.

According to the rules, the EIB president needs the support of at least 18 countries representing at least 68 percent of the bank's capital. It is a complex situation, with several candidates vying for the position and little room to manoeuvre.

The support of the major EU economies (Germany, France and Spain, Italy and Poland) was therefore key to the outcome of the race.

In this game of endorsements (or lack of them), the Spanish and Danish women seemed to have the edge — although the big question was which of them would win the support of France and Germany, the EIB's two heavyweights.

Until the congress of the party of European socialists in Málaga, Spain, last month, Germany had not publicly declared which candidate it would support. A balance that eventually tipped in favour of Calviño.

"I think she will be a very good president of the EIB," German chancellor Olaf Scholz said during the congress.

France, on the other hand, has remained silent throughout and its finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, will not publicly announce whether the country is in favour of the Spanish candidate until Friday morning, according to Spanish media reports.

Calviño is a former European commission official, and her choice comes with awkward timing for socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez, as his Spanish government has just been formed for a new parliamentary term.

The EIB is the world's largest multilateral lender, with a balance sheet of €547bn. Its current president is German politician Werner Hoyer, who has been in charge since 2012, after being reappointed for a second term in office in 2018.

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