Philip Lane wins strong backing for ECB vice-presidency position

Majority of MEPs considered Lane’s performance ‘more convincing’ than Spanish rival

The governor of the Central Bank Philip Lane won strong backing for his candidacy for the vice-presidency of the European Central Bank from MEPs at an in-camera hearing of the parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee on Wednesday night.

According to the Spanish paper El Pais he won the support of five political groups to one for the Spanish candidate, economy minister Luis de Guindos.

MEPs have a right to be consulted, but the decision will be taken by finance ministers next Monday and Tuesday, and confirmed by government leaders at a summit in March. Mr De Guindos remains the clear favourite to take the job, with Mr Lane being mentioned for the upcoming vacancy of chief economist.

One source at the meeting said that Mr Lane’s presentation of his academic and practical experience in multiple aspects of central banking was clearly stronger than that of Mr de Guindos. Some MEPs were also unhappy at the idea of a minister taking up the banking role and Socialists were critical of his role in Spain’s austerity crisis. Both candidates were viewed as appointable, he said.


MEPs also criticised the absence of a woman candidate.

Mr Lane and Mr de Guindos each "made a good presentation", Roberto Gualtieri, the chairman of the parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said in a statement. Mr Lane had the edge with lawmakers. "The majority of the political groups considered Governor Lane's performance more convincing," according to Mr Gualtieri. "Some groups expressed reservations for Minister Guindos's appointment."

The victor will join the ECB's six-member executive board in June after Portugal's Vitor Constancio steps down, and gets to help the institution map a path out of its extraordinary monetary stimulus.

Several nations including Portugal, Malta and Slovakia have already declared their support for Mr de Guindos, while none have signalled an intention to vote for Mr Lane.


The two candidates for the ECB’s second-highest post come from very different backgrounds. Mr de Guindo (58) would be an unusual choice, as euro-area finance chiefs have never before selected one of their own for the board. He defended his credentials in the parliament hearing, arguing that he has never run in an election and serving in government shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Mr Lane (48) is an economics professor who became Central Bank governor in 2015. He earned his doctorate at Harvard University in 1995, becoming an assistant professor of economics and international affairs at Columbia University in Manhattan before returning to teach at Trinity College in Dublin. He said the region's economy is resilient enough to withstand rate increases when they come, according to one of the people at the hearing.

Both stood firmly behind ECB president Mario Draghi’s handling of the financial crisis, according to lawmakers who attended the informal hearing. Both stood for continuity of policy and were optimistic about the future of the euro region, according to MEPs, who asked not to be identified because the hearing was private. – Additional reporting: Bloomberg

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times