It’s revenge for Southern Europe. The Twenty-Seven agreed on Friday to appoint the Spaniard Nadia Calviño, 55, as head of the European Investment Bank (EIB), a little-known but very powerful community institution, based in Luxembourg. She will take over from German Werner Hoyer, 72, whose mandate ends at the end of the year after twelve years running the European Union bank. The appointment of the Spanish Minister of the Economy to this post is a scathing setback for the Dane Margrethe Vestager, former “star” of the European Commission, from whom she left this summer to compete for the EIB. Despite a fierce campaign, the meeting of the giants Facebook and Apple at the Competition Directorate in Brussels was unable to convince the member countries. She announced on Friday that she would resume her functions within the Brussels executive until the end of her mandate next year.
Nadia Calviño's candidacy was approved by consensus, after the support of Germany, then that declared at the last minute by France, the two largest shareholders of the bank. Not sure that it could have passed if there had been a vote, the very strict criteria of which required a quorum of 68% of the votes of EIB shareholders and the support of at least 18 Member States. Three other candidates, including the former Italian Minister of the Economy Daniele Franco, as well as a Swedish vice-president and a Polish vice-president of the EIB, also presented themselves.
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Nadia Calviño has built a solid reputation among her European peers. She has drawn praise in the arduous negotiations for the reform of the euro zone's budgetary rules, which are still stumbling on a few key points, but could succeed by the end of the Spanish presidency of the EU council on 31 December. This native of La Coruña, in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, is almost better known in Brussels than in Madrid. Fluent in English, French and German and having worked as an interpreter to finance her economics studies, she joined the European Commission in 2006, where she was Director General of the Budget, after having been deputy to Competition then to Financial Services.
It is for her very good knowledge of the community workings that Pedro Sanchez appointed this Eurocrat Minister of the Economy in 2008, with the title of vice-president of the government. The choice of this technocratic profile aimed to send a signal of stability to the markets, skeptical of the heterogeneous majority brought together by the socialist. A successful bet, despite the constant tensions between Ms. Calviño and radical left ministers within the executive. When she arrived, some nicknamed her “Nadie” (nobody) to emphasize her very low notoriety. “It constituted a mainstream counterweight perfectly in line with the lines drawn in Brussels,” confirms Marcel Jansen, professor of Economics at the Autonomous University of Madrid. She represents the liberal line of the PSOE [Socialist Party, Editor’s note], which is not very present in the Sánchez governments.” She surprised the employers by refusing to pose if she was the only woman in the photo. A feminism in suit heels which contrasts with the fiery speeches of her radical left colleagues.
Within the cabinet, she carried out, in complete discretion, the most effective political work. “The 2022 labor law reform bears the mark of the Minister of the Economy much more than that of the Minister of Labor,” believes Jansen, a labor market specialist. The ministry surrounded itself with specialists to bring the final result closer to Brussels’ expectations.” It was also illustrated by the good implementation of the jackpot of nearly 70 billion euros of European funds from the post-Covid recovery plan received by Spain, which boosted the growth of the country, which has become one one of the most dynamic in the euro zone.
His return to international institutions was long awaited. After trying to establish himself at the head of the Eurogroup and having taken charge of the monetary and financial committee of the IMF, this is the third time that Calviño has tried to leave Madrid. With its strike force of 65 billion euros annually, the EIB plays a key role in the climate transition of the European Union, at a time when States' room for budgetary maneuver is being restricted. France sought to ensure that the institution would not hesitate to finance nuclear energy. The Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire welcomed “an excellent candidate aligned with our ambitions”.