Thursday 19 July 2018

Support builds for Philip Lane's ECB rival

Central Bank Governor Philip Lanemay have eye on alternative role. Photo: Collins
Central Bank Governor Philip Lanemay have eye on alternative role. Photo: Collins

Nikos Chrysoloras and Colm Kelpie

Support for Central Bank Governor Philip Lane's bid for the European Central Bank's second highest post is building, the Department of Finance has said.

This is despite the fact that Portugal, Malta, Slovakia and Latvia already have said they intend to support Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos over Mr Lane to be the next vice-president of the ECB.

Officials from Austria, Cyprus and Finland told Bloomberg they are leaning toward supporting Mr Guindos.

"Minister [Paschal] Donohoe is fully supportive of Governor Lane's nomination to the VP position in the ECB and is confident that there is solid support for Ireland's candidate, which is building.

"We will continue to outline Philip's qualities and his exemplary track record to all member states who will have a vote, across the coming days."

And yet none of the currency bloc's remaining governments signalled an intention to vote for Mr Lane, declining to comment when asked by Bloomberg.

A German government official said that Ireland has hardly lobbied at all for its candidate and that Dublin's intention may be to push instead for the ECB chief economist job when Peter Praet's term expires next year.

But a Department spokesman said Mr Donohoe and Irish diplomats have been "actively lobbying" since the nomination of Mr Lane to the VP position

Countries can still change their minds before the Eurozone finance ministers decide on the matter at a meeting on Monday in Brussels.

Heavyweights including Italy are refusing to show their cards, and informal hearings for the candidates at the European Parliament on Wednesday could yet shift the mood.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire "has always made clear that Guindos has excellent qualities", a French government official said.

While the European Parliament quizzed Mr Guindos and Mr Lane yesterday in Brussels, the assembly has no power to block the appointment.

The final decision is taken by an enhanced majority of the Eurozone's 19 national governments.

Finland will officially decide which candidate it will support on Friday, Finance Minister Petteri Orpo said in a message relayed by his spokesman, adding that Mr Guindos's experience makes him a strong candidate.

Spain has grounds for increasing its representation in European institutions, he added.

Mr Guindos has a history of pushing through the economic restructuring that the ECB says is vital to the currency bloc's long-term health.

In his memoir, he described sleepless nights and bust-ups with the European Commission in 2012 as he negotiated Spain's €41bn bailout and reform package.

Unlike Mr Lane, he lacks an economics PhD. (Bloomberg)

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