European Union parliamentarians
specialized in economic affairs threw down the gauntlet Monday in a
showdown over gender balance in top EU posts, recommending against
Yves Mersch joining a leading European Central Bank (ECB) board.
The Luxembourg Central Bank governor is the only candidate for the spot on the ECB's executive board - helped by Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker, who put his chairmanship of the Eurogroup panel of eurozone finance ministers at stake over Mersch's nomination.
"We don't have anything against you," EU lawmaker Sylvie Goulard of France told Mersch during a hearing on Monday night. "But can we really have until 2018 only male representation (on the ECB board)?"
Other legislators, however, expressed concern that Mersch was being made a scapegoat, noting that other recent nominations of men to top ECB posts had not been opposed by the parliament.
The European Parliament does not have a binding say on Mersch's nomination, but its opposition would cast a heavy shadow.
The full legislature will vote on the matter on Thursday, following the negative opinion Monday night by a majority of its committee on economic and monetary affairs.
Many lawmakers have made their vote conditional on an appearance in parliament by EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday, saying they would only back Mersch's nomination if he convinces them that he takes their concerns about gender inequalities seriously.
Mersch tried to steer clear of the debate, saying that he embraces the value of gender equality - but also refusing to withdraw his nomination so an appropriate female candidate could be found, citing the priority of a rapid appointment.
The issue "cannot be resolved in one single nomination," he argued, pointing also to the fact that the gender balance problem in ECB decision-making has its roots decades ago, when women were less likely to graduate with financial degrees.
Mersch instead tried to put the focus on his European convictions and long track record in the economic world.
"I am here to ... show (my) experience and capacity in monetary and banking affairs," he said.
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