Spain Kicks Off Race to Reclaim Position on ECB Executive Board

(Bloomberg) -- Spain kicked off the race to lock down the European Central Bank vice presidency after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed the nation will bid for the post.

The Spanish premier said the country is well-placed to present “a female or male” candidate for the role set to become vacant after the current No. 2, Portugal’s Vitor Constancio, retires in May. Rajoy’s comments come after Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said earlier this week the next opening will be filled by a Spaniard.

European finance ministers are set to formally open the procedure of shortlisting choices at their Jan. 22 meeting in Brussels.

“I’m not a position to give you a name, but Spain will put forward a candidate,” the prime minister told reporters in Brussels, without elaborating. De Guindos himself has been tipped as a possible candidate, especially after he didn’t put forward an application this month for the chairmanship of the Eurogroup.

Spain Kicks Off Race to Reclaim Position on ECB Executive Board

Spanish politicians are determined to plant one of their countrymen on the ECB’s Executive Board, regaining a seat lost in 2012 to Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch. Given its size as the euro area’s fourth-largest economy and its reputation as poster-child for structural reforms, the government has said it is under-represented in the region’s institutions.

While the ECB’s top jobs are formally awarded on the basis of individual expertise, they are in the gift of governments, meaning national interest and horse-trading tend to dominate. The official process sees the Eurogroup propose a candidate, which goes to a non-binding vote at the European parliament, before member states formalize the appointment.

In his push to secure a Spanish appointment, Rajoy acknowledged European lawmakers’ demands for more female candidates to be short-listed for high-profile jobs. He argued his government has a good track-record in promoting women, pointing to his deputy and long-trusted adviser Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

“It’s important to have a balance, a sense of equilibrium,” he said. “And that means we could present either a female or male candidate.”

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