27th Oct 2016

Parliament snubs ECB on 'gender bias'

  • Bowles next to ECB chief Mario Draghi - the British MEP is tipped for the top financial job in London (Photo:

MEPs in the economic and monetary affairs committee accused eurozone finance ministers of "gender bias" on Monday (22 October) in a vote against the nomination of Yves Mersch to the board of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Despite pro-Mersch amendments by some MEPs from the two main political groups - the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D - the negative resolution got through by 21 votes to 12 with 13 abstentions.

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The European Parliament has no legal power to block Mersch.

But its political move is the first time it has used its consultative role to reject an ECB candidate.

His appointment would mean that there would be no women at the ECB's top table for at least the next six years, when its vice-president, Vitor Constancio, is due to leave.

The board has been male-only since May 2011 when Gertrude Tumpel Gugerell left.

British Liberal deputy and committee chair Sharon Bowles said in a statement that MEPs could overturn their decision in Thursday's plenary vote provided that European Council chief Herman Van Rompuy sets out concrete plans to improve gender balance in the bank and in top posts in EU national finance ministries and central banks.

Van Rompuy will address MEPs later on Tuesday when he reports back on last week's EU summit.

During an uncomfortable hearing with Mersch in which MEPs lambasted the Council while saying they did not question Mersch's professional competence, the Luxemburger refused to withdraw his nomination when asked to do so by Swedish Liberal deputy Olle Schmidt.

"We don‘t have anything against you ... But what can we do when Council behaves so badly?" French Liberal MEP Sylvie Goulard said.

Mersch noted he had the support of ministers and that to reject him would be an unnecessary distraction as the ECB battles with the crisis.

"An engine [the board] with six cylinders that runs on five is suboptimal," he said.

For her part, Bowles added it is "baffling that member states are not pushing for more women in key finance positions."

Bowles herself is among leading candidates to succeed Mervyn King as the next governor of the Bank of England.

Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP, said the committee vote would send "a strong political signal to EU governments that they cannot continue to ignore the exclusion of women from the eurozone's highest decision-making bodies."

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