EU Parliament Opposes Mersch ECB Move in Symbolic Gender Act

The European Parliament opposed the appointment of Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank’s Executive Board in a symbolic protest over a lack of female candidates for the job.

The non-binding opinion by the European Union assembly today in Strasbourg, France, is a political appeal to euro-area government leaders to put forward women for top ECB posts. The EU Parliament had no veto power over the assignment and praised the qualifications of the 63-year-old Mersch, who is Luxembourg’s central bank chief.

All 17 central bank governors in the euro area are men and, within the 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 three days ago after it recommended that the full 754-seat assembly issue a negative opinion on Mersch. Following that committee guidance, the Parliament opposed him today by a vote of 325 to 300 with 49 abstentions.

Gender Imbalance

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.

ECB President Mario Draghi and EU President Herman Van Rompuy have 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 extra supervisory roles.

“It is urgent to fill that vacancy,” Van Rompuy told the 27-nation Parliament two days ago while also saying that 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. We need to be active in encouraging this process.”

EU Parliament members said Van Rompuy’s pledges were insufficient.

“We want diversity,” Sylvie Goulard, a French member of the assembly, where women account for more than a third of the membership and over half of the staff, said after today’s vote. “A male-only board of the ECB in 2012 is not acceptable.”

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