Eurozone finance ministers will decide Thursday who should lead the group over the next 30 months.
Ireland’s Paschal Donohoe, Luxembourg’s Pierre Gramegna and Spain’s Nadia Calviño are vying for the Eurogroup presidency, which sets much of the financial policy agenda for the currency union.
Whoever gets a majority will succeed Portugal’s Mário Centeno, whose two-and-a-half-year term ends on July 12, and try to coordinate a eurozone recovery after the pandemic cratered the EU economy.
The election pits the EU’s largest political families against each other. Donohoe hails from the center-right European People’s Party, Calviño comes from the Socialists & Democrats, and Gramegna’s a member of the liberal Renew Europe group.
But Europe’s North-South divide over budget policy could be more important than party politics, considering the ongoing work over an EU recovery fund and future eurozone budget. Calviño, meanwhile, would be the first woman to hold the post, following Christine Lagarde’s breakthrough at the European Central Bank last year.
“The Eurogroup is made right now of a group of very experienced finance ministers,” Centeno told media mid-June, standing neutral on who should follow in his footsteps. “I don’t see an issue of gender in this race at all.”
The successor will also aim to broker a compromise on sharing risks in the banking industry, unblocking a proposal to combine national deposit guarantees to protect savers.
The winner needs a simple majority out of the 19 ministers, who get one vote each. Nominees can cast a ballot for themselves.
With many travel restrictions still in force to contain the coronavirus, ministers will hold vote virtually, using e-ballot software that the Council has tested. The program will relay their choice in secret. Centeno will get an immediate notification of the result and announce it to the group.
The three candidates and their premiers have been making calls over recent weeks to secure votes by making deals, calling in favors and firming up existing alliances — based on both geography and political lines.
Based on confidential conversations with more than a dozen top officials from national treasuries, the election seems headed to two rounds before reaching a resolution.
In the first round, Calviño will likely be able to count on votes from Germany, Greece, Italy and Portugal, plus Spain. Donohoe can expect the backing of Austria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as Ireland. Gramegna should have support from Belgium, Estonia, the Netherlands and his own Luxembourg. Officials speculate that he may gain backing from France and Malta, although their position, as well as Finland’s, remains unclear heading into the meeting.
How ministers would vote in a second round is also uncertain. Results should arrive in the early evening.
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