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Lagarde’s future ECB colleagues aren’t all convinced on her

Jul 27 2019 10:49
Craig Stirling and Jana Randow

When Christine Lagarde chairs her first meeting as European Central Bank president in November, she might wonder which of her colleagues don’t really want her there.

On Thursday, as the Governing Council signed off on the decision by governments to appoint the former International Monetary Fund chief, not all of the 21 voting members backed her, according to two euro-zone central bank officials, who declined to be identified because such matters are confidential. According to one of them, the secret ballot threw up two objections and an abstention.

Lagarde can rest in the knowledge that two of her rivals for the ECB job, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and Bank of Finland Governor Olli Rehn, weren’t among them - because they couldn’t vote under the ECB’s streamlined decision-making system of monthly rotation. The same restriction applied to Belgian Governor Pierre Wunsch, and his Estonian counterpart, Madis Mueller.

It may also be hard to believe that current ECB chief Mario Draghi would have objected, considering his ringing endorsement of Lagarde during the press conference subsequent to the meeting in Frankfurt.

“She’ll be an outstanding president of the ECB,” he told reporters, adding that he’s been working with Lagarde longer than either would care to remember.

The Governing Council gets consulted on all nominees to the ECB’s Executive Board, including the president, and assesses whether officials are “of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters.” It then publishes its opinions without revealing how members voted, so it’s not known if Lagarde’s predecessors in the role also prompted any objections.

A spokesman for the ECB declined to comment on the Governing Council’s opinion.

Lagarde won the ECB job this month after a prolonged standoff among governments over a series of senior European Union appointments. The 63-year-old former French finance minister will be the first woman to lead the institution, and the first person to do so who isn’t a career central banker.

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