The battle for the presidency of the European Investment Bank is definitely shaping up to be a race between the Spanish candidate, Nadia Calviño, and the Danish liberal Margrethe Vestager, in which the economic vice president of the Government starts with a slight advantage (“she is in pole position ”, say community sources) but not enough to be declared the winner, especially today, playing at home, in Santiago de Compostela, where the Spanish presidency has brought together the European economy ministers.
“It is important not to force the process to reach a consensus candidate,” and “I don't think we are ready for that at the moment,” said the Belgian minister, Vincent Van Peteghem, who this semester holds the rotating presidency of the EIB, ruling out that it is possible to settle the matter today, as initially proposed. However, government sources declare themselves “cautiously optimistic” about Calviño's options.
The vice president clarified that she was not going to use her position as host to promote herself. “I do not intend to defend my candidacy with the ministers since I am going to be presiding over the meetings and welcoming the ministers to my land,” she said, implicitly assuming the internal criticism of Spain pushing for a decision precisely in Santiago.
There are three more candidates (the Polish Teresa Czerwińska, the Italian Daniele Franco and the Swede Thomas Östros) and all, except for the latter, are in Santiago with their respective national delegations to lobby. None has done it as visibly as Vestager, who was in the front row of the flashes during the visit of Calviño and his colleagues to the cathedral of Santiago, and yesterday sat in the press room to chat casually about the his candidacy. She was also seen knitting, one of her favorite hobbies, in the delegates' area, waiting for a meeting. Until the emergence of the Spanish, the Danish, one of the most recognizable figures in the European Commission, was emerging as a favorite.
The high number of candidates and the internal divisions (between north and south, right and left, east-west, large countries against small...) mean that, today, no one meets the necessary conditions to be elected: the support of at least 18 of the bank's 27 shareholders and votes totaling 68% of its capital. Although far from that figure, Calviño, who the French Government said yesterday has “all the necessary skills” for the position, could be closer to meeting the second criterion than Vestager, who on the other hand has the support of more countries.
There are more factors at play. It is presumed, for example, that the conservative government of Greece prefers the Danish liberal over the Spanish socialist one, with ideology weighing over the traditional geographical factor. Few countries have clearly expressed their preferences (Portugal has, in favor of Spain) but it is not ruled out that some will do so today after the informal debate they will have during their working breakfast.
Belgium, as acting president of the EIB, could propose today that one of the candidates with the least support withdraw from the race in order to facilitate the agreement. Italy has presented a non-political profile and hopes to benefit from this circumstance in the event of a blockade. Founded in 1958 in Luxembourg, the EIB is called upon to play a greater role in financing the investments necessary for the green transition and its presidency has become a coveted position.
This same week, the board of governors of the European Central Bank decided to propose the German Claudia Buch as president of the Single Banking Supervision Mechanism, against the criteria of the European Parliament, which preferred Margarita Delgado. Asked about this, President Christine Lagarde defended the process, praised the “elegance” with which the Spanish woman took the decision and downplayed the possibility of a clash with the European Parliament.