Mainstream groups in Parliament highlight lack of gender balance in ECB top job

The Socialists, Renew Europe and the Greens have denounced the male-only list of candidates for a senior European Central Bank post.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Oct 2020

The EU may be forced to relaunch its search for a top job at the European Central Bank (ECB) after MEPs lambasted the lack of gender balance in the candidates.

Two candidates, both men, were on the list for the vacancy on the ECB's executive board. On Tuesday, a Dutch candidate, Frank Elderson, emerged as the preferred choice after a meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers.

The Bank’s president is a woman - French official Christine Lagarde - but the three political groups were incensed there was no woman on the shortlist, despite Parliament previously stating that this should be the case.

Some MEPs are now threatening to veto Elderson’s appointment and have demanded the nomination process for the board place is restarted.

It is the second time in recent months that Parliament has complained about male-only candidates for top EU banking posts.

“We have already called on the Eurogroup and the economic and finance ministers several times to match our ambition and commitment to gender balance. In the twenty first century such lack of gender balance in top finance positions is simply unacceptable” Jonás Fernández, S&D

In July, a parliamentary committee refused to back François-Louis Michaud’s nomination as executive director at the European Banking Authority because of concerns about gender equality in top financial roles.

Michaud was eventually approved at plenary but MEPs point out that in the European supervisory system only two of nine top positions are filled by women.

A parliamentary resolution in March 2019 called on governments, Council, the Eurogroup and the Commission to “actively work towards gender balance in their upcoming proposals for shortlists and appointments, endeavouring to include at least one female and one male candidate per nomination procedure.”

Even so, nearly every board of European finance and economic institutions is almost exclusively male-dominated.

Referring to the ECB case, Jonás Fernández, S&D spokesperson for economic and monetary affairs, said it was “very disappointing to once again find only two men and not a single woman on the candidate list for the ECB’s executive board.”

“We need equal numbers of male and female candidates in order to achieve more gender equality in top positions in the financial sphere” Sven Giegold, Greens/EFA

Fernández said, “We have pushed hard to have more women in top finance jobs and we will continue to do so.”

“Whenever Parliament has the power to decide on nominations for top jobs we make sure gender balance plays a crucial role in the nomination process. Accordingly, we voted against the male-only candidate list put forward by the EBA earlier this year because of gender balance concerns.”

“We have already called on the Eurogroup and the economic and finance ministers several times to match our ambition and commitment to gender balance. In the twenty first century such lack of gender balance in top finance positions is simply unacceptable.”

The comments were echoed by German MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson for the Greens/EFA group, who called for the application process in this case to be re-launched with “suitable female candidates” put forward.

“Otherwise Parliament must reject the candidate following its plenary decision for more gender equality in top financial positions. Anything else would undermine the credibility of Parliament.”

“Parliament can no longer be faced with the binary choice of approving or rejecting one single candidate, a man pretty much every time” Stéphanie Yon-Courtin, Renew Europe

He said, “We need equal numbers of male and female candidates in order to achieve more gender equality in top positions in the financial sphere.”

“Instead of merely proposing men, the Council should finally follow Parliament's demand and present a gender-balanced shortlist. A structural change in the selection processes is needed to finally make equal rights in top financial positions a reality.”

He added, “The ECB remains an extremely male-dominated institution despite the fact that it is headed by a woman. More open application processes would also help to put an end to the haggling for positions between the Member States. Open application procedures lead to the selection of the best, rather than the best-connected candidates.”

In a statement, Renew Europe said it “deplores” the decision to present a male-only list while Luis Garicano, deputy RE leader, noted that only two of the 25 members of the ECB´s governing council are women, adding, “EU governments continue to perpetuate this unacceptable situation when they insist in defying Parliament’s wish for gender balance shortlists. We will continue to do all we can to correct this absurdity.”

Another RE deputy, Stéphanie Yon-Courtin, deputy chair of ECON, said, “Parliament can no longer be faced with the binary choice of approving or rejecting one single candidate, a man pretty much every time.”

Her colleague Monica Semedo noted, “Parliament needs to lead by example and stand firmly behind the values of fairness and equality.  If we want more women to be on boards, then we need to reflect this in our institutions, and guarantee a fair and gender-balanced application procedure.”

Elderson is currently executive board member of De Nederlandsche Bank, the Dutch central bank, a job he has held since 2011. The 50-year-old lawyer is already a member of the ECB’s supervisory board and will replace Yves Mersch, whose mandate ends on 14 December after he served a non-renewable 8-year term.

The ECB executive board is responsible for the implementation of euro area monetary policy and is composed of the president, vice president and four other members, all appointed for a non-renewable 8-year term.

A Council spokesman said, “Appointments to the ECB board are made by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, from among persons of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters.”

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