FOCUS ON FINANCE
THE EURO ZONE
A PRIME CANDIDATE
March 31st to April 6th 2017 ed., P.18
In 2012, Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch replaced José Manuel González Paramo on
the ECB’s board, despite the fact that another Spaniard was put forward to replace
Paramo. It was perceived as a snub by Spain, which became the largest eurozone country
without representation at the bank’s table. Four years on and that is still the case.
If awarding the Spanish economy minister presidency of the Eurogroup in 2015 would
have taken the sting out of that rejection, then Dijsselbloem’s re-
Indeed, last December the Spanish economy minister complained to reporters that Spain was not adequately represented in top EU committees. He also flagged up Spain’s intention of trying to be “influential in all [EU] debates”. Why on earth, then, would he not want another shot at the Eurogroup presidency?
Other than a sudden loss of political ambition, only one reason presents
itself. Next year, the vice chairmanship of the ECB board becomes vacant when Portugal’s
Vítor Constâncio steps down. De Guindos might well have his sights on this role rather
than the less weighty one of Eurogroup president. Although he could, of course, follow
the example set by former UK chancellor George Osborne -
southern European countries squander EU funds on drinking and chasing women will soon be forgotten. Ignition of Article 50 this week is, after all, a slightly more important matter than a few silly remarks from the Dutch finance minister. But speculation about who will take Dijsselbloem’s place if he fails to win a second renewal of his position in January 2018 is now rife. Mariano Rajoy, of course, is convinced that the Spanish economy minister is the best man for the job, saying to reporters in Rome last Friday that Luis de Guindos is “one of the most important and competent personalities in the Eurogroup”.
That may well be true. The more pertinent questions, though, are whether De Guindos actually wants the Eurogroup presidency or if he intends to nominate himself for the position. On the latter point, Spain’s economy minister made a barely credible claim on Tuesday, saying that he is “not a candidate for the presidency of the Eurogroup”.
I’m almost certain that’s not rue. De Guindos lost out to Dijsselbloem
in the summer of 2015, when the latter won a second term as boss of the eurozone
countries’ finance ministers. He was re-
M a r k N a y l e r