Thursday

20th Feb 2020

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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

Parliament bares teeth on ECB

The ECB should not make an enemy of the EU parliament as the power of both institutions grows.

Unhappy EU leaders begin budget haggle

EU leaders arriving at the Brussels summit criticised the budget proposal of EU Council president Charles Michel, as richer member states insisted holding onto their rebates, while poorer countries wanted to avoid deep cuts to their subsidies.

Exclusive

Commission bins 'Dublin' asylum-reform proposal

The European Commission is set present its new pact on migration at the end of March. Margaritis Schinas, the commissioner in charge, says its 2016 Dublin-reform proposal will be "taken off and be repackaged, redrafted."

Opinion

Only EU can tame Zuckerberg's Facebook

When the EU speaks, Silicon Valley listens. The tech titans know that the EU matters. Which is why it's so crucial that following the lobbying from Zuckerberg, on disinformation, the EU gets regulation right.

Column

Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe

The continent that gave the world the Enlightenment has collectively reverted to believing in fairy tales and the soothing power of cozy narrowness. Moscow and Beijing like what they see, and are doing everything to strengthen the trend.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us