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EU Parliament Panel Opposes Mersch Move to ECB Executive Board

A European Parliament committee opposed the appointment of Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank’s Executive Board because of unhappiness about a lack of female candidates for the job.

The non-binding opinion by the European Union assembly’s economic and monetary affairs committee today in Strasbourg, France, is a political appeal to euro-area government leaders to put forward women for top ECB posts. The recommendation on Mersch, Luxembourg’s central bank governor, now goes to the full EU Parliament for a vote on Oct. 25.

Two women, Sirkka Haemaelaeinen of Finland and Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell of Austria, previously sat on the ECB’s six-member Executive Board. If the five men currently there serve their full terms, another position won’t become available until June 2018 when Vice President Vitor Constancio retires.

“We are objecting to the EU’s most powerful institution being run by only men for the next six years,” Sharon Bowles, who chairs the 27-nation Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, said in an e-mailed statement. “At a time when we are doing all that we can to change the culture of financial services and to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis, it is baffling that member states are not pushing for more women in key finance positions.”

The ECB seat has been vacant since Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo of Spain ended his eight-year term on May 31. Euro-region finance ministers then wrangled over his replacement until July. As Luxembourg’s representative on the ECB’s wider policy-setting Governing Council, Mersch is the 17-nation euro area’s longest serving central bank chief and has earned a reputation as an inflation hawk.

Bowles praised Mersch’s qualifications and held out the possibility that she would urge the full 754-seat Parliament to ignore the committee’s recommendation and endorse his candidacy should EU President Herman Van Rompuy pledge action to promote women in top European jobs. Van Rompuy is due to speak to the Parliament tomorrow about an EU summit last week.

“Van Rompuy now has the last opportunity tomorrow, when he addresses the plenary, to show us that member states are ready to commit seriously to encouraging women into top positions,’ Bowles said.

ECB President Mario Draghi has said that, while the gender imbalance calls for action, Mersch’s appointment to the Executive Board should go through to help the central bank tackle Europe’s three-year-old sovereign-debt crisis. The workload of the Frankfurt-based ECB has multiplied as it embarks on unprecedented unconventional monetary policy measures and takes on additional supervisory roles.

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