Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe is set to secure a second term as Eurogroup president unopposed after the window for rivals to run closed without other contestants coming forward.
At noon Brussels time on Thursday no other candidates had submitted the letter required to run for president, The Irish Times understands, clearing the way for Mr Donohoe to remain in the role without a competition.
The presidency of the powerful group of Eurozone finance ministers involves brokering consensus on some of the EU’s fault line issues such as fiscal policy, and could potentially be a crucial role as the continent faces an economic downturn.
Diplomats and officials said Mr Donohoe had been well thought of as president since he was elected to the role in July 2020. He received the public backing of the Netherlands and Belgium for a second term, and is understood to have been quietly supported by France and Germany.
Some member states preferred to avoid the uncertainty of an open contest at a time when economic clouds are gathering and they are already struggling to agree on a replacement for the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism.
There had been uncertainty about whether the upcoming Coalition reshuffle in Dublin would affect Mr Donohoe’s chances, as he is expected to be replaced as minister for finance by Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath when the job of taoiseach rotates to Fine Gael next month.
Mr Donohoe is expected to become minister for public expenditure and reform, and he is set to chair the Eurogroup while Mr McGrath attends as Ireland’s representative. The arrangement is slightly unusual as Eurogroup presidents are typically finance ministers, and countries do not usually have two ministers in the meetings, although it has happened in the past.
The election is set to formally take place when the finance ministers meet on December 5th.
Speaking to reporters in Paris, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Mr Donohoe retaining the role recognised “the constructive contribution that Ireland is making” to EU affairs.
“I think a sensible route was identified some time back. Pascal has been a very effective chair of the Eurogroup. He is very well respected across European Union finance ministers and generally in terms of his presentations to the European Council. I think a very sensible approach has been taken all around,” he said.
Mr Donohoe overcame initial scepticism from other EU countries that he could retain the role as an independent chair, while Ireland’s minister for finance attended the meetings as a regular member. While this role was fulfilled by Jean Claude Juncker when he was prime minister of Luxembourg, EU diplomats thought it unlikely that the “Juncker precedent” would be followed.
The group is now bigger -- there will be 20 members when Croatia joins -- and is consequently less informal.
However, a quiet campaign from the Dublin Central Fine Gael TD in recent months convinced EU countries that the arrangement could work.
When Mr Donohoe declared his candidacy for a second term two weeks ago, it was taken as a sign in Brussels that he had mustered enough support to win out. Crucially, the Spanish finance minister Nadia Calvino - who Mr Donohoe defeated to win the role in 2020 - did not seek to contest the election for a second time.