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Way cleared for Nadia Calviño to become EIB chief

by editor

BRUSSELS ‚ Nadia Calviño has emerged as the clear frontrunner to lead the European Investment Bank.

Belgium’s finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem, who is leading the selection process for one of the bloc’s top jobs, will send a letter to his EU counterparts endorsing the Spanish finance minister for the role, two officials told POLITICO on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

Until now, the Belgians were holding back from putting forward a single candidate because there was no consensus among governments.

The EIB doles out billions of euros of loans to big infrastructure projects across Europe and is growing in importance because it is expected to have a crucial role in rebuilding Ukraine and climate financing in the years ahead.

Calviño is a former European Commission official who was director general of the budget department and has been Spanish finance minister since 2018. She has made her top-job ambitions known before, making an unsuccessful bid for the presidency of the Eurogroup, the body representing euro finance ministers, in 2020.

Finance ministers are set to vote on whether to endorse Calviño in a meeting in Brussels on Friday next week, the officials confirmed.

French irritation

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz came out in support of Calviño during a meeting of top European Socialist leaders in Spain earlier this month. France had not publicly backed any candidate and European officials had signaled the decision hinged on President Emmanuel Macron giving the green light.

Calviño’s main rival for the job was Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner who is currently on leave from that role to focus on her candidacy. She hails from the same Renew Europe liberal group as Macron but was a source of irritation to the French government after blocking the rail mega merger between France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens and nominating U.S. economist Fiona Scott-Morton for a top EU job rather than a European. 

In all, five candidates had been in the running to lead the EIB, which was founded by EU member countries in 1958. In addition to Calviño and Vestager they were Polish economist and current EIB Vice President Teresa Czerwińska, Sweden’s Thomas Östros, and former Italian minister and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Italy Daniele Franco.

Officially, the winning candidate requires 68 percent of the share capital of the EIB and 18 countries to back them, although realistically the decision all but hinges on France and Germany and the EU’s finance ministers had always said they wanted a consensus.   

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