European Union France, Germany and Italy make it difficult for Calviño for the EIB

On January 1, the president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, leaves the post after more than a decade

European Union France, Germany and Italy make it difficult for Calviño for the EIB

On January 1, the president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, leaves the post after more than a decade. The process for electing his successor, or more likely female successor, is opaque, flexible, lacking clear or fixed rules, deadlines or transparent processes, but three things are indisputable: there are barely seven weeks left to avoid a power vacuum and the candidate It must have the support of at least 18 of the 27 member states and the bloc that supports it must hold at least 68% of the institution's capital. As of today, after several months of campaigning, there are still five candidates and none meet the requirements. Time is running out and Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency of the EIB Board of Governors, is frustrated and puts pressure on those responsible for the impasse: France and Germany.

"As you know, the criteria are what they are and having the support of 68% of capital is essential. That is why it is important that the big ones clarify what their position is. It has not happened yet, they have not done it, but I am convinced that that once it is clear we will take advantage of the momentum generated and we will be able to move quickly," the responsible minister, Vincent Van Peteghem, explained this Wednesday from Brussels.

Berlin and Paris play cat and mouse. They don't speak out and when they do it is very cryptically. Last month, in Luxembourg, the German minister, Christian Lindner, when asked by this newspaper, assured that after many discussions they had reached an agreement within his Government to support someone, but they would not make it public yet. Not until France does the same, and it hasn't happened yet. But since then, sources in Berlin qualify that statement and say that the agreement between the chancellor (socialist and supporter of the Spanish one) and his minister (liberal and closer to the Danish Vestager) was about process and not specific names.

In the EU it has been assumed for months that Emmanuel Macron and his minister Bruno Le Maire opt for Nadia Calviño, but they are setting a price. Likewise, diplomatic sources have admitted for weeks that Berlin would also lean towards the Spanish. But there is a lot at stake, in issues that mix and poison.

One issue is the French demand that whoever wants to lead the EIB must support nuclear energy and that the institution finance related projects, something it does not do now although it is not officially prohibited in its statutes. Others say, with more speculation than evidence, that Paris also demands Spanish support to host the headquarters of the European agency against money laundering, but this week, in Brussels, the Government has presented the Spanish capital's campaign.

Regarding Germany, in addition to the negotiation of fiscal rules that is underway in which it has a very tough opposition and Spain serves as presidency, the question of the presidency of the SSM, the European Banking Supervision Mechanism, to which the Spanish aspired weighed. Margarita Delgado, favorite of the European Parliament and better technically, but who lost to the German Claudia Buch. The Government was not directly involved, since the members of the Governing Council of the ECB, which includes the governor of the Bank of Spain, voted. But the fact that Buch left and not Delgado cleared the way for Calviño, since the appointment of the two to relevant economic positions would have been complicated, since some Spaniards are already in bodies such as the EBA, the European banking authority.

Whether for any of those reasons, because of affinity, because no one wants to commit their support to the candidate of a Government that is not guaranteed (at least not yet, but perhaps in a matter of days) its continuity, or because the Franco-German axis is preparing its own strategy and it may even suit them the possibility of another candidate who emerges in the face of the blockade, the fact is that they continue without speaking out in public. And that has everything blocked. Vestager has many supporters among small, Nordic or Baltic countries, but she would never reach 68%.

So far, Belgium has been more than discreet. To any question he put himself in profile, saying that there was enough time, that he was in "constant consultations" and in search of consensus. His presidential team emphasized that they were trying to identify the candidate with the most support and, also, the fewest votes against. But the numbers don't work out. There are five people in the running: Nadia Calviño, the Danish Margrethe Vestager, acting vice president of the European Commission; the Italian Daniele Franco, who was Mario Draghi's minister. And the Polish Teresa Czerwinska and the Swede Thomas Östros, both current vice presidents of the EIB.

From the first day the general feeling in Brussels and all the capitals is that the Spanish and the Danish were the top favorites, in that order, and that the rest had little or nothing to gain. But they have continued in the battle for two reasons: in the event that none of them achieve the required support, the election of a third name in the play-offs could be forced and, furthermore, because as long as the decision is not made, each Government can put a price on support. , and for obvious reasons that price rises if it also involves withdrawing a national candidate.

Italy officially endorses its own candidate. They have few options but if the two favorites eliminate each other, a surprise can spring, and no one moves better in the chaos than them. If they decide, they will receive the favor.

Calviño, who announced his interest in the position in mid-August, quickly took the lead in all the pools. But since then he has not moved forward. No one in the entire EU claims or has published that it is not the one with the most options, but the delay does not work in its favor and the lack of resolution has generated many doubts in the community bubble, which still remembers how it lost the presidency of the Eurogroup, being by far the best candidate. Or how she failed to be the European candidate for the IMF, a position that some in Washington continue to say that she has her eye on, when the Bulgarian Kristalina Giorgieva, who is her friend and was her boss in the Commission European, term ends.

The Spanish woman continues to defend, as she did this Wednesday upon her arrival at the Eurogroup, the meeting of the Eurozone finance ministers, that her options remain good and that she has solid support. But as long as France and Germany do not align and also drag votes to one side, nothing will happen. And the rumors will continue to spread. "Tomorrow at breakfast I will report the status of the process to colleagues and apply some pressure because it has become urgent to make decisions, time is running out. On January 1 we need a new president of the EIB, otherwise decisions will not be able to be made that are important for the Bank and for the EU. Tomorrow I will be able to focus on the urgency but I do not think that steps will be taken this week," the Belgian minister concluded.