Yves Mersch is still on course to become the sixth member of the European Central Bank's executive board, despite the European Parliament taking the drastic step of opposing his appointment. The Parliament cannot block an ECB nomination, but the ‘No' vote sent a signal of dissatisfaction with member states' failure to find a woman for the role.
The vote, at the full parliamentary session in Strasbourg on Thursday (25 October), saw Mersch's appointment rejected by 325 MEPs, led by the centre-left and liberal groups, with 300 MEPs – mainly from the centre-right and Conservatives – voting in his favour. There were 49 abstentions.
Eurozone member states must now decide whether they will ignore the Parliament's opposition and the accompanying political sensitivities by rubber-stamping Mersch's appointment anyway.
MEPs said that they were 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 served out their full terms. Those who voted in favour of Mersh's appointment echoed concerns raised by Mario Draghi, the ECB president, earlier this month that the executive board should not be depleted at such an important time.
The post has been unfilled for nearly half a year as member states wrangled over who should be appointed. Many MEPs denied that they had voted against Mersch's appointment because they opposed his ‘hawkish' views. He is seen as more of a hard-liner than some on the executive board and Germany in particular has been keen for him to start work, to balance members from the eurozone's south.
Earlier in the week (23 October), Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, had sought to sway MEPs by reassuring them that he was urging government leaders to put forward more female candidates for senior positions in EU institutions.
“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,” said Olle Schmidt, a Swedish Liberal MEP. Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP, described the Parliament as taking “a stand against the exclusion of women from the eurozone's highest decision-making bodies”.
Marina Yannakoudakis, a British Conservative MEP, 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.