On Thursday MEPs gave a final thumbs down to the Council’s intransigence in failing to commit to a better gender balance within what is effectively Europe's most powerful financial institution, the European Central Bank. By a narrow margin, the plenary confirmed the rejection of candidate ECB Executive Board member Yves Mersch, as recommended by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.
MEPs had been hoping that European Council President Herman Van Rompuy would use his presence in plenary on Tuesday morning to offer concrete commitments regarding gender balance. But his words fell short of expectations.
“Mr Van Rompuy has not taken the opportunity to offer more than lip service to what is a very serious matter. He has promised nothing, not even a road map, for appointing women to the ECB board in the future. European institutions should be leading by example, not dragging their feet”, commented Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee chair Sharon Bowles (ALDE, UK).
MEPs rejected Mr Mersch's nomination by 325 votes to 300, with 49 abstentions.
For over two years the ECB gender imbalance issue has been raised in plenary and in committee, notably at the hearings of nominees for ECB posts such as Peter Praet, Mario Draghi, Jorg Asmussen and Benoit Coeuré.
On 8 May the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee wrote to Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker asking that women should be considered for the Executive Board post before a candidate was recommended and for EU member states to present a medium-term plan to recruit more women to top posts in the ECB, and also national central banks and finance ministries.
Meanwhile, some committee members drew up an informal list of potential women candidates for the ECB post. Parliament is not officially required to draw up such a list.
Mr Gonzalez Paramo’s mandate as member of the ECB executive board expired on 31 May. On 10 July, the Council recommended Mr Mersch as candidate for the vacant post of ECB executive board member.
Having received no medium-term plan as requested and no assurance that women had been considered for the vacant post, the committee's coordinators decided on 5 September to postpone the hearing of Mr Mersch. On 19 September and 3 October respectively, Parliament's President Martin Schulz also raised the issue in letters to European Council and Commission Presidents Herman Van Rompuy and José-Manuel Barroso.