ECB appointment rejected on grounds of gender bias

Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 01:00

THE EUROPEAN Parliament has controversially blocked the appointment of Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch to the board of the European Central Bank on the grounds of gender bias.

In a rare show of strength, Strasbourg MEPs yesterday voted down Mr Mersch’s candidacy by 325 votes to 300 and castigated the European Council for making insufficient efforts to find a suitable woman candidate.

Mr Mersch’s nomination to the six-member executive board in Frankfurt has been the source of a major gender row within the EU, with many MEPs voicing concern at the lack of women in senior decision-making positions. The ECB’s 17-member governing council and its executive board are composed entirely of men.

If Mr Mersch is appointed, the ECB’s executive board will remain all-male until at least 2018, when the next opening arises.

Despite the parliament’s stance, Luxembourg’s central bank chief is still likely to be appointed as the ultimate decision rests with euro zone member states.

The parliament’s rejection of his nomination, though largely gestural, still represents an embarrassment for the council, which is compelled by several EU statutes to pursue gender equality.

EU parliament president Martin Schulz is now obliged to request that a new candidate be put forward, but the European Council can still ignore the parliament’s rejection.

MEPs had been expecting more concrete commitments to address the problem of gender bias across its administrations from the European Council president Herman Van Rompuy when he addressed the parliament on Tuesday.

However, while acknowledging the concern expressed over Mr Mersch’s candidacy, Mr Van Rompuy still urged MEPs to back the appointment as the vacancy needed to be filled urgently.

“Mr Van Rompuy has not taken the opportunity to offer more than lip service to what is a very serious matter,” UK MEP Sharon Bowles, chair of the parliament’s economic affairs committee, said yesterday. “He has promised nothing, not even a road map, for appointing women to the ECB board in the future. European institutions should be leading by example, not dragging their feet.”

The ECB seat has been vacant since José Manuel González- Paramo of Spain ended his eight-year tenure in May. Only two women, Sirkka Hämäläinen of Finland and Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell of Austria, have previously sat on the ECB’s executive board.