EU lawmakers appear set to back down in their battle against the ECB and vote for Germany’s Claudia Buch as the bloc’s next top banking official – a move that could pave the way for Spain to win the most coveted top job of the European Investment Bank.
MEPs were considering taking a tough line on the nomination to chair the European Central Bank’s supervisory board, which they have the power to block, after Frankfurt last week defied their wishes by backing Buch. Parliament instead wanted Spaniard Margarita Delgado, whom lawmakers saw as more experienced and tougher.
But ahead of the hearing and vote in committee on Wednesday, Parliament officials now say that the major political groups are ultimately leaning towards supporting the choice of the ECB.
“It will be a difficult hearing, but in the end there will be no significant arguments for disapproval,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak freely because the discussions are confidential.
The position has been drawn into wider political battles for the EU’s top jobs, particularly that of the race to become the next president of the EIB – a role that comes with money from the EU to spend. After MPs backed Delgado for the ECB post, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calviño threw herself into the EIB ring, where she faces Margrethe Vestager, currently on leave as head of digital and of EU antitrust.
Embarrassing and complicated
Some Spanish MEPs are expected to voice their disagreement in the secret ballot and have even campaigned against Buch, but momentum is shifting in her favor – provided she does not botch her public hearing.
European lawmakers are backing down from a major institutional clash with the ECB over the post as the German, who is vice president of the Bundesbank, is seen as qualified for the job even though she was not their first choice.
While some MEPs last week described the ECB’s decision to opt for Buch as “embarrassing” and “complicated”, they are now much more discreet. A wild card could be the secret nature of the vote, which could give MEPs more freedom to defy the party line.
As with all these decisions, the repercussions are broader. In Brussels’ battle for key positions, the idea of handing two top financial positions – the leadership of the EIB and the ECB supervisory board – to Spaniards is difficult to convince.
The Spanish government is therefore perhaps not too unhappy that Delgado loses, even if the appointment of Buch would allow a German to return to the head of a European institution, at the same time that Werner Hoyer, the current president of the EIB leaves.
Bjarke Smith-Meyer contributed reporting.