Germany's support tipped the EIB race in favor of Calviño in the face of France's silence

Spain will once again occupy the presidency of one of the great institutions of the European Union.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
08 December 2023 Friday 15:42
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Germany's support tipped the EIB race in favor of Calviño in the face of France's silence

Spain will once again occupy the presidency of one of the great institutions of the European Union. After four months of intense and discreet consultations between the capitals, the Ministers of Economy of the Twenty-seven yesterday endorsed the candidacy of their Spanish colleague, Nadia Calviño, for the presidency of the European Investment Bank (EIB), which will be vacant on 1 January 2024. Founded in 1958, the EIB is the largest development bank in the world and is called upon to play a key role in financing the large energy projects that the EU plans to carry out in the coming years, as well as in the reconstruction from Ukraine.

“We are convinced that Nadia Calviño has all the necessary qualities to lead the largest multilateral bank in the world, channeling the necessary financing to companies, and supporting investment to boost competitiveness in Europe and sustainable development,” announced Vincent van Peteghem, the Minister of Finance of Belgium, the country that holds the rotating presidency of the entity's council of governors and has been in charge of the selection process.

After five years on the front line of Spanish politics, a time in which she has piloted economic management during the pandemic and the blow caused by the war in Ukraine, Calviño, former director general of budgets of the European Commission, will thus return to home, to community institutions. The term of president of the EIB, a position that has never been held by a woman until now, lasts six years, renewable. The vice president said she felt “grateful and honored” to receive the support of her colleagues. Her election “also reflects the respect, appreciation and leadership that Spain has earned thanks to its hard and intense work in recent years,” she celebrated after learning of her appointment, which will force Pedro Sánchez to remodel his new government team.

Shortly after the elections of July 23, Sánchez decided to bet heavily on the presidency of the EIB – held for twelve years by German Werner Hoyer – and presented the candidacy of first vice president and Minister of Economy. There were already four candidates for the position and the race was then decided in favor of the Danish Margrethe Vestager, on leave as vice president of the European Commission. The competition soon became a two-way duel in which neither the Spanish nor the Danish could meet the stipulated requirements: obtain the support of at least 18 countries that, in turn, represent 68% of the bank's capital.

The possibility that Calviño and Vestager would block each other and this would lead to the emergence of a third consensus candidate could encourage the rest of the countries to keep their respective candidates (Daniele Franco for Italy, Teresa Czerwińska for Poland and Thomas Östros for Sweden), which contributed to perpetuating the stagnation. Finally, on November 10, a few days after Sánchez was re-elected president, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced at a congress of European socialists in Malaga that his government supported Calviño.

That support was essential for the race to begin to become clearer. France, however, has remained silent throughout the process and only in the final stretch, with the debates on the reform of fiscal rules about to reach the finish line, did it express its support for the southern candidate to Belgium, for ahead of the Danish one, despite the fact that she belongs, like Emmanuel Macron, to the European liberal family. Last Friday, finally, the Belgian minister wrote to his colleagues to propose supporting Calviño, since, according to his bilateral consultations, she was the candidate with the most support.

His conclusion, as La Vanguardia reported this Wednesday, is that the Spanish woman had gathered enough support to preside over the European development bank and this was conveyed yesterday to the European ministers, who endorsed Calviño's election. The aura of the Spanish winner after the support of Berlin led to the support of other northern partners, who let Belgium know that although they initially supported Vestager, they would be equally satisfied with the Spanish.

Italy expressed its disagreement with the process followed by the Belgian delegation, which, although it notified the candidates that it was going to bet on Calviño, did not telephone their respective governments, and yesterday its minister addressed the issue during the ministers' working breakfast. It was a “reasonable” intervention, according to diplomatic sources. But while Vestager and Denmark took the defeat with sportsmanship, a certain bitterness is detected in the words of the Italian minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti: “Calviño is an excellent candidate, but if Italy had had its own, Franco, in my position, it is possible that could have been played better,” the representative of Giorgia Meloni's Government told the press, implying that the Spanish had an advantage over her candidate, who was Minister of Economy with Mario Draghi.

Calviño's appointment will be discussed next Wednesday at the meeting of the EIB board of directors and a process will be launched that will culminate in a decision by the council of governors, made up of EU finance ministers, which can be taken in writing, The entity explained in a statement. “We want to have a new president early next year, so there are three to four weeks left to complete the procedure,” Van Peteghem said.