This week, Nadia Calviño plays at home. As head of the Economy, she is the host of the informal meeting of her EU counterparts, which takes place on Friday and Saturday on her land, in Santiago de Compostela. The vice president was confident that here, in the City of Culture and before the investiture attempts add noise to the public debate, her aspirations to preside over the European Investment Bank would be satisfied. However, the issue has not only been left off the agenda, but the person responsible for not discussing the issue, her rival Margrethe Vestager, has appeared in the Galician city to neutralize the 'domicile effect, monopolize the spotlight'. and do all the lobbying possible for his own candidacy.
The images could not be more striking. Although last week the Dane requested a temporary leave of absence from the European Commission, of which she is vice president and responsible for Competition, on Thursday she was one more, always close to Calviño, during the visit that the European authorities made to the city's Cathedral . When the Spanish woman finished talking to someone, she took over. Hours later, she was walking along the margins of the Ecofin, wearing an accreditation from the delegation of her country. Vestager has no role in Ecofin, but she has traveled to lobby, to meet with smaller countries, to try to forge an alliance. And above all, to counteract the influence of the Spanish, considered a favorite by almost everyone in Brussels. And like her, two other candidates: the Italian Daniele Franco and the Polish Teresa Czerwinska.
At first, Spain hoped that a single name would emerge from Santiago for the EIB. The final decision is made by the institution's Board of Governors, but the plan is for Ecofin to first agree on the name. However, it could not be. Vestager complained to the Belgian minister, Vincent Van Peteghem, who as rotating president of that board of governors is in charge of logistics in this process for which there are no very clear rules or precise choreography. The decision could not be made in Santiago, the rest of the candidates argued, because it would not be fair nor would it give a good image. It would be in Spain, during the Spanish presidency and under the leadership of Calviño.
"Look, the presence of some of the candidates may lead to conversations, but as the Spanish presidency I am not going to address this issue here (...) It would not seem appropriate to me taking into account that I chair these informal Ecofin meetings and that we found not only in Spain, but in my land, in Galicia, in Santiago de Compostela", the Spanish woman said ironically despite the fact that until very recently those around her said the opposite, that it was not only possible but desirable for everything to be settled. already here.
Van Peteghem will follow the round of consultations and if he sees that there is a certain consensus, or a majority leaning towards a candidate, he will ask that she be included in the Ecofin on October 15 in Luxembourg, which is not only neutral ground for all candidates, but where is the Bank's own headquarters. "We should not force the process. We are making informal consultations to have a consensus candidate and we are not at that point yet," she assured.
But the race is on and that's why every minute is precious. The image was most unique and at times comical. Vestager, always used to being surrounded by a team and entourage, alone in the hallways and alone with her phone outside. At times commuting, at times sunbathing, letting yourself be loved by the numerous displaced media. And the same with Franco and the Polish vice president, who a priori has no option either. All selling their candidacies and virtues. "I don't come to ask for a job, but for a reform mandate. The EIB has to be faster and maintain quality," said the Dane in a group. Santiago is a unique opportunity to talk and meet in person some of the people I have not dealt with until now," added the community vice president on leave, satisfied.
His campaign, unlike Calviño's, is very public, through interviews in the international press, appearances on German television. She wants her message to spread as much as possible, while Pedro Sánchez's vice president, faithful to the country's tradition, prefers discretion, silence and focusing on talking to those who make the decisions, nothing more. An option that in the past has not given the desired results.
At the moment, only one country has publicly announced its support for a candidacy: Portugal. And it is no surprise, since it shares with Spain a rotating chair in the direction of the institution. Whoever aspires to preside over the European Investment Bank needs the support of Germany and France, since there is no vote per country, but rather the capital of the institution is taken into account. Paris, Berlin and Rome have 18%, and Spain just over 11%. The rules say that you need 68% as well as the support of 18 countries, but it is assumed that if the big two are on your side, there is little to debate.
The Government hoped that one of the big two would openly show its support, but the leaders have been cautious. Bruno Le Maire assured that the Spanish woman has the "required skills", but the fact that he only mentioned Calviño by his name does not seem to be enough of a show of support, except for the most optimistic. The German Lindner (liberal, unlike his chancellor Scholz, a socialist) marked more distances, limiting himself to pointing out that there are "good qualified candidates" and preferring to highlight what he asks for: someone prudent, fiscally conservative, committed to the green transition and to maintaining the Triple A credit.
Words that seem generic, but that clash with the aspirations of France, for example, which advocates for a braver bank, less risk averse, capable of being more agile. And of course he should start financing the nuclear bet, something that he has been informally avoiding for 20 years. The message in Paris and Berlin is clear: the name is not enough, the passport is not enough and not even the past is enough. For the position they want someone with a very clear program, and that is much more complicated.