Receive free updates from the European Investment Bank
We will send you one myFT Daily overview email finalizing the latter European Investment Bank news every morning.
Germany’s governing coalition is divided over who to back in the race for the leadership of the bloc’s biggest lender, as EU finance ministers discussed the issue on Saturday.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz is backing Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calviño as the next president of the European Investment Bank, but Germany’s finance and economy ministers are backing her Danish rival, Margrethe Vestager, according to people familiar with the matter.
The EIB post, which oversees the world’s largest multilateral financial institution with a balance sheet of more than half a trillion euros, will become vacant on December 31 when Werner Hoyer steps down after two six-year terms. The position is one of the most prominent top positions in the EU, hotly contested among member states and often decided by high-level political horse-trading.
The finance ministers, who held their EIB discussion over breakfast in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, did not formally discuss names but instead gave clues about who they support by making suggestions regarding the bank’s strategy.
“The corridors were filled all weekend with candidates meeting other ministers,” said a person involved in the meetings.
Scholz has worked closely with Calviño over the past five years and both come from center-left parties. He wants Germany to support her, but Robert Habeck, vice chancellor and leader of the German Greens, and Christian Lindner, finance minister and head of the liberal Free Democrats, are more inclined to support former European competition commissioner Vestager, a Danish liberal. supports. people were informed about the discussions.
Vestager was in Berlin last week to meet Lindner, Habeck and Wolfgang Schmidt, Scholz’s chief of staff. The trip was part of a tour of European capitals with the aim of increasing its position in the EIB competition.
Scholz’s support for Calviño helped prompt a number of smaller member states to offer her their support, EU officials said, stressing there was no guarantee she would remain the favorite. Germany is one of the three largest shareholders of the EIB, alongside France and Italy.
As competition commissioner, Vestager angered Berlin and Paris by blocking a €15 billion rail deal between France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens in 2019. Paris has not stated who it will back in the EIB race, but officials say Paris is favorable to Calviño.
Calviño’s candidacy received new impetus this week when the Spanish candidate to chair the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the eurozone’s top financial regulator, lost to Germany’s Claudia Buch, deputy head of the Bundesbank.
Similarly, a decision by eurozone ministers on Friday to back Italy’s Piero Cipollone to join the European Central Bank board is seen as weakening the case of Rome’s EIB candidate, former finance minister Daniele Franco.
Spain holds the EU’s rotating presidency, meaning Calviño chaired the two-day meeting. She abstained from the breakfast debate, officials familiar with the planning said, which was instead overseen by Belgium’s finance minister.
Finance ministers, who are also the governors of the EIB, were not expected to reach a consensus decision on Saturday on Calviño, Vestager or Franco, not least because of the lack of clarity from many capitals about who they will ultimately will support.
Lindner said on the eve of the meeting that the German government has not yet made a decision on who to support. But he said ministers had a “clear picture” of their vision for the bank.
Wanting to ensure the EIB maintains its triple A rating, Berlin said “sound banking is essential for us”, and backed its efforts to finance green investments, projects in Africa and the reconstruction of Ukraine. But he stressed that its mission “must not be overburdened.”
He also said the bank’s governance could be improved, adding that the bank needed to be “more flexible in its processes”.
Calviño traveled to the G20 leaders’ summit in India last weekend to press her case with other EU delegates. She said on Friday that it would not be appropriate for her to use the meeting in Santiago to promote her bid as she was due to host her colleagues in the city, including a private tour of the city’s famous cathedral and a lavish gala dinner.
“I have no intention of discussing this with the finance ministers present here. . . the continued competition and the various candidacies for the European Investment Bank,” she told reporters on Friday.
That reflected a private demand from Denmark in the run-up to the meeting, officials said. Vestager and Franco are also attending meetings in Spain to present their case to ministers.
The next ministers will meet in October, when a decision is possible.