Eurozone finance ministers meet to decide the next ECB vice-president — here’s who is in the running

By Billy

Eurozone finance ministers will convene in Brussels today to decide who will be the next European Central Bank (ECB) vice-president.

Ministers are also expected to review Greece’s economic adjustment programme, the reform of the European Stability Mechanism.

Last week it was revealed the economic committee of the European Parliament sees Irish central bank governor Philip Lane as a stronger candidate for the post of European Central Bank vice president than Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos.

However, after intense lobbying of German chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders by Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, Guindos would appear on track to win support for the job today.

Vitor Constancio has been ECB vice-president since June 2010. Before that he served as governor of the Bank of Portugal from 2000.

Officials from Austria, Cyprus and Finland say they are leaning toward supporting Guindos, according to the Bloomberg survey.

Euro zone ministers pick a candidate today with a formal vote tomorrow when they are joined by non-euro zone EU finance ministers.

The candidate then has a hearing with the parliament’s committee and the ECB is asked for an opinion.

Who are the two candidates?

Philip Lane — governor of the Irish Central Bank

Lane is a member of the ECB’s governing council and is well versed in how the Bank works — this could be a deciding factor in the race.

However, there have been reports suggesting Lane is more interested the position of ECB chief economist, which will be vacant next year.

Luis de Guindos — Spain’s economy minister 

Guindos — a former finance minister but not a central banker — was criticised by the European Parliament for not having the right kind of experience for the ECB role.

As finance minister in the Spanish conservative government since 2011, he is the longest-serving member of the Eurogroup — and ran to be its president in 2015.

Guindos worked previously at Lehman Brothers bank and the PriceWaterhouseCoopers consultancy firm.

What was said:

Eurogroup president Mario Centeno said last week:

These are two excellent candidates.

The economic committee of the European Parliament chairman Roberto Gualtieri said in a statement:

The majority of the political groups considered Governor Lane’s performance more convincing. Some groups expressed reservations for Minister De Guindos’s appointment.

Sven Giegold, the spokesman for economic and financial affairs for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, said:

Luis de Guindos is also a threat to the independence of the ECB. As a long-standing member of the Eurogroup, de Guindos cannot carry out the new office independently. Lane has shown himself to be a distinguished and proven economist, De Guindos, on the other hand, as a politician who would like to be a top job at the ECB.

Why it matters:

The appointment will be the first in a reshuffle in positions within the central bank that could change the course of its monetary policy.

Four out of six positions within the ECB executive board will have to be replaced by the end of 2019. The first of these will take place on June 1, which will be the new vice president’s first day on the job.