The European Parliament has voted against Yves Mersch becoming the sixth member of the European Central Bank's executive board.
MEPs, at a full parliamentary session in Strasbourg, today opposed Mersch's appointment by 325 votes to 300, with 49 abstentions.
The Parliament does not have the power to block the appointment and the EU's Council of Ministers is expected to press ahead with it despite the opposition.
MEPs are unhappy that the appointment of Mersch – the head of Luxembourg's central bank – would mean that the ECB board would become all-male, and would remain so until 2018 if current members serve out their full terms.
Olle Schmidt, a Swedish Liberal MEP, welcomed the vote outcome. “Just as there is no doubt about the present candidate's competence, there is no doubt that institutions should be setting an example rather than confirming a stereotype,” he said.
Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP, was equally delighted. He said that the Parliament had “taken a stand against the exclusion of women from the eurozone's highest decision-making bodies”.
He added: “Although not binding, the vote sends a strong political signal that EU governments cannot simply ignore these legitimate concerns about the total absence of women in the key institutions dealing with the euro crisis.”
Other MEPs did not support the Parliament's stance. Marina Yannakoudakis, a British Conservative, accused MEPs of “playing gender politics” in the middle of a crisis.
“To try and veto a qualified candidate – a central bank governor, no less – on the basis of his gender is nothing short of discrimination,” she said.
On Tuesday (23 October), Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, told MEPs that he would urge government leaders to put forward more female candidates for senior positions in the EU institutions.
But his words were not enough to persuade MEPs, mainly from the liberal group and the centre-left group, who were unhappy not just with the idea of an all-male board, but also with Mersch's views on how to address the problems of the European economy.
Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the S&D group, said afterwards: “We are very disappointed with his [Van Rompuy's] presentation.”