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EU finance ministers discussed the issue on Saturday, with Germany’s ruling coalition divided over who to support in a bid to lead the bloc’s biggest bank.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is backing Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calvino to be the next president of the European Investment Bank, but Germany’s finance and economics minister is backing her Danish rival Margarethe, according to people familiar with the matter. Vestager.
The position at the European Investment Bank, which oversees the world’s largest multilateral financial institution with a balance sheet of more than €500 billion, will take effect on December 31 following the resignation of Werner Hoyer after two six-year terms. Vacant. The post is one of the most important among the EU’s top jobs, hotly contested among member states and often decided through high-level political bargaining.
Finance ministers, who met over breakfast in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela to discuss the European Investment Bank, did not formally discuss names but gave clues about whom they would support by making recommendations on the bank’s strategy.
“The corridors were packed all weekend with candidates meeting other ministers,” said one person involved in the meeting.
Scholz has worked closely with Calvino, both from center-left parties, over the past five years. He wants Germany to support her, but Robert Habeck, Germany’s deputy chancellor and leader of the Green party, and Christian Lindner, the finance minister and leader of the Free Democrats, prefer to back Denmark’s former European competition commissioner Liberal Vestager. Discussions were briefed.
Vestager met with Lindner, Habeck and Scholz’s chief of staff Wolfgang Schmidt in Berlin last week. The trip is part of a tour of European capitals aimed at boosting her standing in the European Investment Bank competition.
EU officials said Scholz’s support for Calvino prompted some smaller member states to offer her support and stressed there was no guarantee she would remain the favourite. Germany is one of the three largest shareholders of the European Investment Bank, along with France and Italy.
As competition commissioner, Vestager in 2019 blocked a 15 billion euro rail deal between France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens, angering Berlin and Paris. Paris has not announced who it will support in the EIB race, but officials say it favors Calvino.
Calvino’s candidacy received a new boost this week when Spain’s candidate to chair the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the euro zone’s top financial regulator, lost to Bundesbank Deputy Governor Claudia Buch.
Likewise, euro zone ministers’ decision on Friday to back Italy’s Piero Cipollone as a member of the European Central Bank’s executive board was seen as undermining Rome-based European Investment Bank candidate and former finance minister Daniel Franco. Daniele Franco’s approval rating.
Spain holds the rotating EU presidency, which means Calvino is chairing the two-day meeting. Officials familiar with the plan said she recused herself from the breakfast debate, which was overseen by Belgium’s finance minister.
The finance ministers, who are also presidents of the European Investment Bank, are not expected to agree on Calvino, Vestager or Franco on Saturday, especially since many countries are unclear about whom they will ultimately support.
Lindner said on the eve of the meeting that the German government had not yet made a decision on whom to support. But he said ministers had a “clear understanding” of the bank’s vision.
Berlin wants to ensure the European Investment Bank maintains its AAA rating, saying “a sound banking sector is crucial to us” and supporting its efforts to finance green investment, projects in Africa and the reconstruction of Ukraine. But he stressed that its mission “cannot be overstretched.”
He also said the bank’s governance could be improved, adding that “processes need to be more agile”.
Calvino traveled to India last weekend to attend the G20 leaders’ summit to make her case to other EU representatives. She said Friday that it would not be appropriate for her to use the Santiago meeting to promote her bid because of her plans to host colleagues from the city, including a private tour of the city’s famed cathedral and a lavish dinner.
“I’m not going to discuss it with the finance ministers who are here… the ongoing competition and the different candidates at the European Investment Bank,” she told reporters on Friday.
Officials said this echoed a request made privately by Denmark ahead of the meeting. Vestager and Franco also attended the meeting in Spain to present their views to ministers.
Ministers will next meet in October, where a decision is likely to be taken.