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Denmark's ex-deputy prime minister Margrethe Vestager. SUR
It's a two-woman race

It's a two-woman race

Both Spain's former economy minister Nadia Calviño and Denmark's ex-deputy prime minister Margrethe Vestager are in the race to be the next boss of the European Investment Bank (EIB)

Friday, 1 September 2023, 19:15

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Along with the usual stream of exhausted pilgrims, Europe's finance ministers will head to the Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela next month. Their mission? To choose the next boss of the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Two contenders are said to be leading the race for this influential post - Spain's former economy minister Nadia Calviño, who was the EU's Director-General for Budget between 2014 and 2018, and Denmark's ex-deputy prime minister Margrethe Vestager, who in 2016 earned Donald Trump's opprobrium for slapping Apple with a 13 billion euro tax bill. Assuming either Calviño or Vestager is appointed, they'll take over from Germany's Werner Hoyer to become the EIB's first-ever female president.

The caretaking Spanish government put Calviño forward for the post halfway through August. From its point of view at least, the country's former first deputy prime minister is an obvious choice. She's had big EU jobs before, she presided over the Spanish economy during its tentative post-pandemic bounceback (although she can't take sole, or even most of, the credit for that) and she's uncontroversial, bordering on dull.

It's also understandable that the acting Spanish government wants another shot at involvement in top-level EU decision-making. Pedro Sánchez's leftist coalition is currently leading the EU Commission, but the political vacuum caused by the July 23 election is severely limiting its ability to act in that role. With Calviño installed at the top of the EIB, though, Spain would be guaranteed a weighty EU role for years to come, not just until the end of the year, when Belgium takes over the Commission's six-month rotating presidency.

Which brings me onto the main reason why Calviño shouldn't get the job. Everyone seems to have forgotten that right now she is not a finance minister.

Following the July 23rd general election, voters in Spain have not returned her to either of her former offices within the Socialist-led coalition: she is technically no longer an economy minister or a first deputy prime minister. Do we really want a non-elected politician leading one of the EU's most powerful institutions? Technically, Calviño shouldn't even be receiving an invite to the Santiago meeting next month.

Unfortunately for my argument, the same complaint can be made against Vestager, who currently holds no governmental role in her home country (previously she has been the minister for Denmark's economy, education and ecclesiastical affairs departments and the leader of its Social Liberal party). But she is a member, at the European level, of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the bloc's current Competition Commissioner. She also holds one of the most ridiculously prolix job titles in Brussels, as Vice President of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, an office established in 2019. Vestager, not Calviño, should become the EIB's first-ever female boss.

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