Friday

30th Sep 2016

MEPs' gender vote sparks power struggle with member states

The European Parliament on Thursday (25 October) called on ministers to withdraw Yves Mersch's nomination for the European Central Bank's (ECB) executive board, insisting that a female candidate should be considered for the post.

Despite having the support of the centre-right EPP, parliament's largest political group, Mersch was narrowly rejected by 325 votes to 300 with 49 abstentions. The centre-left, Liberal and Green groups led the vote against him. Deputies said their negative opinion on Mersch was solely because of gender balance.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • EU diplomats said Mersch is likely to get the job anyway (Photo: European Parliament)

The move is the first time that MEPs have rejected a Council-nominated candidate for the ECB's top table. The vote confirmed the stance taken by the assembly's economic and monetary affairs committee, which met with Mersch on Monday.

Speaking after the vote, Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal Alde group, said it would be "a huge political error for the Council to proceed in complete disregard of the position adopted today."

"They should nominate two new candidates - a man and woman and the best should get the job," he added.

Green group spokesman Sven Giegold said that: "Mersch's candidacy lacks democratic legitimacy; proceeding to appoint him to the ECB's executive board, in spite of today's vote, would create two different levels of legitimacy."

With 14 years of experience as governor of Luxembourg's central bank, Mersch is the bloc's longest-serving central bank boss. He is also regarded as a monetary policy hawk, opposing proposals such as joint liability eurobonds that would communitise sovereign debt, as well as the ECB becoming a lender of last resort.

Before Mersch was nominated by finance ministers in June, Sharon Bowles, the committee chair, wrote to Eurogroup leader Jean-Claude Juncker urging him to consider a female candidate to replace the ECB's Spanish economist Gonzalo Paramo. In their resolution on Mersch's candidacy, MEPs complained that Juncker had not replied.

Although the parliament only has consultative powers over ECB appointments, the move puts eurozone finance ministers in a difficult position.

At a time when ministers and the ECB are under pressure from MEPs to increase parliamentary scrutiny over the ECB's new functions in a proposed "banking union," defying the EU's only directly elected institution would send out a hostile signal.

However, EU diplomats have indicated that member states are likely to ignore the parliament's position and to press on with the appointment regardless.

One contact said ministers would be "extremely reluctant" to create a precedent of parliament turning its consultative powers into a de facto veto.

Another one noted that "parliament has a consultative role and it was consulted," adding that MEPs had not questioned Mersch's qualifications for the post.

Neither Juncker's spokesman nor the ECB were prepared to comment when contacted by this website.

Analysis

Renzi's EU attacks are survival strategy

Faced with a difficult referendum campaign, the Italian prime minister is playing the antiestablishment card, including verbal attacks on the EU and Germany.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAEFA Supports a YES Vote in the Hungarian Referendum
  2. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  3. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  5. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  6. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  12. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List