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Van Rompuy Vows Push for Women in EU Jobs Amid ECB Row

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy vowed to push for more women in top EU finance jobs while urging lawmakers to endorse the appointment of Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank’s Executive Board.

The European Parliament, in a vote due on Oct. 25, is threatening to oppose Mersch’s assignment because of the absence of women in the ECB’s governing posts. The Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee yesterday issued a non-binding verdict against 63-year-old Mersch, who is Luxembourg’s central bank chief.

EU government leaders should “identify and propose female candidates for vacant posts at European level, in particular in the economic and financial sector where the under-representation of women is blatant,” Van Rompuy told the 27-nation Parliament today in Strasbourg, France. “We need to be active in encouraging this process.”

This marks a political attempt to redress a gender imbalance in the medium term while bolstering the immediate needs of the ECB as it battles to stem Europe’s three-year-old sovereign-debt crisis. The workload of the ECB has multiplied as it embarks on unprecedented unconventional monetary-policy measures and takes on additional supervisory roles.

Negative Opinion

All 17 central bank governors in the euro area are men and, within the Frankfurt-based ECB itself, few of its managers are women. 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 vacancy won’t emerge until June 2018, when Vice President Vitor Constancio of Portugal retires.

“We are objecting to the EU’s most powerful institution being run by only men for the next six years,” Sharon Bowles, chairwoman of the EU Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, said yesterday after its negative opinion on Mersch. The committee voted 20 to 13 against him.

The ECB seat has been vacant since Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo of Spain ended his eight-year term on May 31. Euro-area 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 euro area’s longest serving central bank chief and has earned a reputation as an inflation hawk.

‘Failed Promises’

Bowles yesterday praised Mersch’s qualifications and held out the possibility that she would urge the full 754-seat Parliament to ignore her committee’s recommendation and endorse his candidacy should Van Rompuy pledge actions to promote women in top European finance jobs. Today, after Van Rompuy’s address, she signaled continued dissatisfaction.

“What we heard today is no different to all the promises on equality that have universally failed,” said Bowles, a U.K. member of the Parliament pro-business Liberals, the assembly’s third-biggest faction. “We need more than just talk and promises which fall short.”

Van Rompuy told the assembly that he made a “strong appeal” on the matter to all EU heads of government or state at a meeting last week in Brussels and that Mersch’s appointment needed speedy approval.

“I hope that with such renewed commitment to gender balance, Parliament will base its final decision on the current candidate for the ECB Executive Board on the sole criteria of professional qualification and experience,” he said. “It is urgent to fill that vacancy.”

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