BRUSSELS – Spain’s Finance Minister Nadia Calviño will become the next head of the European Investment Bank after EU countries agreed on Friday morning to her appointment.
After a contest lasting several months, Calviño saw off the challenge of Margrethe Vestager, who took leave from her job as the EU digital and competition chief. She is scheduled to start at the Luxembourg-based bank on January 1, the expiry date of current chief Werner Hoyer.
“I am grateful and honored to get the support of my my fellow finance ministers to be at the helm of the European Investment Bank,” Calviño told reporters in Brussels. “[The EIB] will have an even more important role going forward to fund the green transition to provide financial support to the rebuilding of Ukraine and also support the role of Europe in the world.”
The political blessing from the EU’s 27 finance ministers came at a meeting in Brussels after they had already spent much of the night discussing and failing to get a deal on the EU’s overhaul of national spending rules.
Officially, the winning candidate required 68 percent of the share capital of the EIB and 18 countries to back them. But ministers did not vote on Friday as there was a clear majority in favor of the Spanish politician.
The new EIB chief will be in charge of funneling billions of euros of loans to big infrastructure projects across Europe and play a key role in rebuilding Ukraine and providing climate financing in the years ahead.
Strong next president
As POLITICO revealed last week, Calviño received a major boost when Belgian finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem, who was chairing the selection process, endorsed her bid in a letter to EU finance ministers last Friday and gave them time until Monday to put forward their objections.
“I’m sure that Nadia will be a very good president,” Van Peteghem, told reporters in Brussels. “There were of course five excellent candidates but with Nadia, we have a strong next president of the EIB.”
Calviño is a former European Commission official who was director general of the budget department and has been Spanish finance minister since 2018. She has made her top-job ambitions known before, making an unsuccessful bid for the presidency of the Eurogroup, the body representing euro finance ministers, in 2020.
Friday’s agreement hands an EU top job to a socialist candidate from a southern country. This might affect backroom negotiations for other Brussels gigs that will be assigned by leaders after the European election in June.
The Spaniard enjoyed the backing of the EU’s two most powerful countries. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz came out in support of Calviño during a meeting of top European Socialist leaders in Spain in November. France didn’t publicly back a candidate but it is an open secret that Paris leaned towards the Spanish minister.
Vestager irked the French government after blocking the rail mega merger between France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens and nominating U.S. economist Fiona Scott-Morton for a top EU job rather than a European. She’s expected to return to the Berlaymont.
Governments will rubber stamp Calviño’s appointment before the end of the year.