MEPs reject Mersch for ECB role


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 today voted down Mr Mersch’s candidacy by 325 votes to 300 and castigated the European Council for making insufficient efforts to find a suitable female candidate for the post.

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’s17-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 affair 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 to the ECB’s board as the ultimate decision rests with euro zone member states.

The parliament’s rejection of his nomination, though largely symbolic, 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 a new candidate be put forward, but the European Council can still ignore their rejection.

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

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

“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 European Parliament’s economic affairs committee, said today.

“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.”

French MEP Sylvie Goulard said: “A male-only board of the ECB in 2012 is not acceptable.”

It was the second time this week that the gender balance issue took centre stage in Europe. On Tuesday, European Commission proposals to compel companies to put more women on their boards were deferred because of concerns over the legality of the plan.

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

Only two women, Sirkka Haemaelaeinen of Finland and Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell of Austria, have previously sat on the ECB’s executive board.

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