18th Mar 2018

Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president

  • De Guindos missed out on the presidency of the Eurogroup in 2015, but will now become vice-president of the European Central Bank (Photo: Council of the EU)

Spanish finance minister Luis de Guindos will become vice president of the European Central Bank (ECB) later this year, after his sole rival stepped down on Monday (19 February).

De Guindos' candidacy was secure even before a Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, after the group's president Mario Centeno announced that Philip Lane, the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, had withdrawn.

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"It's a personal challenge. I face it with humility, with enthusiasm to learn and defend the independence of the ECB," De Guindos said after the meeting.

De Guindos added that he "will defend the independence of the ECB with all my effort".

 He said that he was neither a 'hawk' nor a 'dove' but "pragmatic" in monetary policies.

He added that he will leave the Spanish government in the coming days.

Lane was backed by the European Parliament's monetary and finance committee, but had little support among ministers.

De Guindos, for his part, had the official support of influential countries, including France, while others, like Germany, were also pushing for his appointment.

"He has a good reputation, he has the recognition from his colleagues, so I think we have found a good candidate," German minister Peter Altmaier said before the meeting.

The Spanish minister, who is now the longest-serving minister in the Eurogroup, had been slated for the ECB position for months, in replacement for Portugal's Vitor Constancio, who leaves in June.

After he had failed to win the Eurogroup presidency in 2015, de Guindos was looking for another high profile position.

As a member of the centre-right EPP party and a minister from the south, he also had a double political and geographical support, as southern Europe is catching up on its under-representation in the EU institutions.

For Lane, who applied to the ECB position at the last minute, "it was difficult to stay in the race while he could feel he had almost no support among ministers," a diplomat told EUobserver.

De Guindos "will do an excellent job," Irish minister Paschal Donohoe said, insisting that he wanted to maintain a consensus within the Eurogroup.

"No one wanted to have blood on the walls for the nomination," the diplomat said, adding that "the distribution of positions has been ready for some time," the official added.

In December, Portugal's Centeno was elected Eurogroup's chair while the Netherlands' Hans Vijlbrief was appointed president of the Eurogroup working group (EWG), the body that prepares the Eurogroup meetings.

Next year, the position of ECB president will also be open, when Mario Draghi ends his mandate in November 2019.

With a Spanish vice president at the ECB, many now expect that the presidential seat will go to a northerner.

"Everybody knows that Germany is at the end of the corridor", a second official told EUobserver, referring to Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann being a strong favourite for the post.

De Guindos insisted however that there were "no conditionalities" to his appointment at the ECB.

"It was a very transparent and open process," Centeno insisted at a press conference after the meeting.

He said that De Guindos, who worked in the past for the Lehman Brothers bank and the PriceWaterhouseCoopers consultancy firm, has "a very rich CV, the profile of a decision-maker."

"His recent experience shows a track record of good judgement," he added, referring to De Guindos steering of austerity policies to put Spain out of the crisis.

The minister's political profile for a central banker job was however criticised.

"His appointment could create a conflict of interest and undermine the independence of the governance of the ECB," said the centre-left S&D group in the European Parliament.

"The Eurogroup is doing the ECB's credibility a disservice," Green MEP Sven Giegold also said, pointing at the same issues.

The Spanish minister, who did not enter the Eurogroup room when his colleagues discussed his appointment, will have to be recommended by the 27 finance ministers on Tuesday. The final decision to appoint him to the Frankfurt-based role will be taken by EU leaders in March.

Eurogroup starts process to pick new ECB chiefs

Eurozone finance ministers will pick who they recommend to become the European Central Bank vice-president - the choice is between their Spanish colleague Luis de Guindos, and the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Philip Lane.

Centeno: Eurogroup picks Southern head

Portuguese finance minister was chosen by his eurozone colleagues with a 'very substantial majority' after he appeared to be the only one ticking the boxes.

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

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