EU’s Months-Long Delay Picking Watchdog Head Draws Criticism

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Tensions are rising within the European Union over the failure to name a replacement to lead the bloc’s top financial-markets regulator.

Paris-based European Securities and Markets Authority has been without a chair since Steven Maijoor’s mandate came to an end in March because of a political standoff at the Council of the European Union, which represents the national governments that make up the bloc. The delayed selection is damaging the watchdog, Evelyn Regner, a member of European Parliament, said in a letter to the presidency of the council.

Regner also made clear the need for the bloc to appoint a female candidate.

“We would like to remind you that as European Union, we are strongly committed to the goal of gender equality,” Regner, who is chair of the parliament’s gender equality and women’s rights committee, said in the letter. The letter notes that women direct only 10 out of 37 EU institutions, “which is why a woman candidate should see preferential treatment.”

Her letter comes on top of a recent effort by Anneli Tuominen, the interim ESMA chair, to speed the selection process. Tuominen said in a July 1 statement that she was rebuffed in her efforts to meet with the Portuguese presidency on the matter earlier this year and called for an appointment to be made as a “matter of urgency.”

The limbo, reported earlier by Politico, could weaken the regulator’s “ability to effectively deliver on its mandate,” Tuominen said. ESMA sets trading standards for the bloc on shares, bonds, derivatives and commodities, and it plays a key role overseeing multitrillion-dollar clearinghouses.

Three shortlisted candidates named at the end of last year to head the watchdog were Maria-Luis Albuquerque, Portugal’s former minister of finance, Carmine Di Noia, commissioner of Italy’s markets regulator, and Verena Ross, ESMA’s executive director. Di Noia and Ross are still in the running.

“This is an issue that we will be focusing on,” Slovenian minister of finance Andrej Sircelj said during a Tuesday presentation to the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. Selecting a replacement is a task “that we will probably carry out by the latest by September.”

A spokesperson for ESMA declined to comment.

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