EU lawmakers step back from fight with ECB over Buch nomination

EU lawmakers look set to back down in their battle with the ECB and vote through Germany’s Claudia Buch as the bloc̵7;s next top banking cop — in a move that could clear the way for Spain to win the more coveted job of running the European Investment Bank.

MEPs had been considering flexing their muscles over the appointment to chair the European Central Bank’s Supervisory Board, which they have the power to block, after Frankfurt last week defied their wishes by supporting Buch. The Parliament instead wanted Spain’s Margarita Delgado, who lawmakers viewed as more experienced and tougher.

But ahead of a hearing and committee vote on Wednesday, Parliament officials now say the big political groups are leaning toward supporting the ECB’s pick after all.

“It’ll be a tough hearing, but in the end there will not be significant arguments to disapprove,” said one official, granted anonymity to speak freely because the discussions are confidential.

The job has been sucked into bigger political battles over top EU posts, in particular that of the race to become the next president of the EIB — a role that comes with EU money to spend. After MEPs backed Delgado for the ECB position, Spain’s deputy prime minister, Nadia Calviño, threw her hat into the ring for the EIB, where she’s facing off against Margrethe Vestager, currently on leave as EU digital and antitrust chief.

Embarrassing and complicated

Some Spanish MEPs are expected to dissent in the secret ballot, and have even been canvassing against Buch, but the momentum is swinging toward her — as long as she doesn’t botch her public hearing.

EU lawmakers are backing off from a major institutional clash with the ECB over the position because the German, who is vice president of the Bundesbank, is seen as being qualified for the job, even if she wasn’t their first choice.

While some MEPs last week described the ECB’s decision to go for Buch as “embarrassing” and “complicated,” now they’re being far more quiet. A wildcard could be the secret nature of the ballot, which could allow individual MEPs more freedom to defy the party line.

As with all these decisions, there are wider repercussions. In the Brussels parlor game over key positions, the idea of handing two top finance jobs ― heading the EIB and the ECB’s supervisory board ― to Spaniards is a tough sell.

Spain’s government may not therefore be too upset for Delgado to lose out even if Buch’s nomination would vault a German back to the top of an EU institution, just as Werner Hoyer, the current EIB president, departs.

Bjarke Smith-Meyer contributed reporting.