EU institutions in dispute over lack of women on board of ECB

Wed, Oct 24, 2012, 01:00

A MAJOR gender row has erupted at the heart of the European Union over the nomination of Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch to the executive board of the European Central Bank.

In an unprecedented move, the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee voted down Mr Mersch’s nomination and rebuked the European Council for not nominating enough women candidates earlier this week.

The committee called on the council to withdraw Mr Mersch’s candidacy, saying his appointment would mean that the ECB’s six- member executive board would remain all-male until 2018.

Despite the committee’s stance, Mr Mersch’s nomination will go to a full parliament vote tomorrow.

“We are objecting to the EU’s most powerful institution being run by only men for the next six years,” UK MEP Sharon Bowles, chairwoman of the committee, said after the committee voted 20 to 13 against the appointment.

“At a time when we are doing all that we can to change the culture of financial services and to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis, it is baffling that member states are not pushing for more women in key finance positions.”

Mr Mersch, who is Luxembourg’s central bank chief, told the committee that his nomination had followed the “proper procedures” and that he was a fervent support of gender equality.

Despite the EU’s stated aim of addressing gender imbalances across its administrations, all 17 of the euro area’s central bank governors are men, and, within the Frankfurt-based ECB itself, there are only a handful of women in senior executive positions.

Two women, Sirkka Haemaelaeinen of Finland and Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell of Austria, previously sat on the ECB’s six- member executive board.

If the five men currently there serve their full terms, another vacancy will not emerge until June 2018.

The ECB seat has been vacant since José Manuel González- Paramo of Spain ended his eight-year tenure in May.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy yesterday called on MEPs to approve the appointment of Mr Mersch. However, he described the committee’s rejection as an “understandable expression of concern”.

Need for more women on boards must be juggled with necessary skillsets: