In protest against the poor quality of the selection procedure, the European Parliament almost rejected Luis de Guindos’ appointment as vice-president of the European Central Bank. It is time for the Eurogroup and the Council to review the appointment process.

Update March 15: Following the vote, the European Parliament’s president Antonio Tajani will bring the issue to the European Council meeting on March 22-23.

Today, the European Parliament has almost rejected the appointment of former Spanish minister Luis de Guindos as vice-president of the European Central Bank. The vote was indeed not a ringing endorsement of De Guindos: it was passed with a tiny majority of 331 MEPs voting in favour, 306 against and 64 abstentions.

This low approval rate mainly reflects growing concerns and disappointments about the selection procedure of ECB board members, as Positive Money Europe has persistently highlighted over the past 3 months.

In the resolution adopted today, the European Parliament has formally requested the Council to engage ‘in a dialogue with Parliament as regards how to improve the process for upcoming appointments.” Last week, the ECON Committee’s chair, MEP Roberto Gualtieri sent a letter requesting that the Eurogroup provides “a shortlist, appropriately gender-balanced, and comprising of at least three candidates.”

However, in the Eurogroup’s response received this morning, the chair of the Eurogroup Mario Centeno did not provide any meaningful commitment to engage in such dialogue.

This in turn fuelled even more disappointment from MEPs, ultimately resulting in the Greens requesting to postpone the vote and the Socialists & Democrats group changing its voting position from abstention to against. However the European People’s Party group refused to delay the process.

Following the vote, Head of Positive Money Europe Stanislas Jourdan commented:

“The Parliament is right to protest and demand a more open and public procedure for appointing ECB board members. Providing the European Parliament with a shortlist of candidates is the minimum requirement to achieve this.”

“If we agree that the recruitment process of high-ranking positions such as the Commission should involve the careful examination of at least two candidates, then there is no reason why this principle shouldn’t be applied on appointing ECB board members.” Stanislas Jourdan added, drawing a parallel with the scandalous appointment of Martin Selmayr as Secretary General of the European Commission fueled MEPs’ anger in Strasbourg earlier this week. In both cases, their appointments were facilitated by the last minute withdrawal of their only competitor, resulting in a questionable single candidate process.

Growing momentum to democratize the ECB

In January, several economists including Thomas Piketty wrote an op-ed calling for a democratization of the appointment process of the ECB future leadership.

The appointment of Luis De Guindos should be confirmed next week by the EU’s head of States. This appointment is the first in a larger ECB reshuffle. Indeed no less than four board members seats to be renewed over the next two years, including Mario Draghi’s position as ECB President in December 2019.

The debate is already raging over who should replace Mario Draghi as next ECB President. This decision will have tremendously important consequences for the future of the Eurozone.

Without any meaningful improvements in the selection procedure, there is a high risk that the legitimacy of the future ECB leadership will be weakened. Ultimately, the ECB’s ability to act during a crisis could be undermined if European citizens feel the people making decisions at the ECB are illegitimate.

“The tiny majority in favour of this appointment sends a clear signal that this selection process cannot remain unchanged. It is extremely disappointing that the Eurogroup nor the Council has not yet offered its full cooperation on this topic. Unless we see meaningful changes to the procedure in the future, we urge MEPs to suspend their participation to future appointments.” Stan Jourdan concludes.

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