Today, on 10 November 2020, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) of the European Parliament voted in favour of Dutchman Frank Elderson to succeed Yves Mersch on the Executive Board of the ECB (33 in favor, 21 against, 3 abstentions). Greens, Socialists and the Left had strongly criticised the lack of female candidates in the selection process and declared that they would therefore vote against the candidate. The election was conducted by secret ballot and constitutes a recommendation to the plenary session of the Parliament, which is expected to adopt its position at the end of November. The final decision on Elderson’s appointment will then be taken by the Council of Ministers which is not bound by the recommendations of the ECB and Parliament.
In a strong resolution last year, the Parliament’s plenary decided that, when filling top positions at EU financial institutions, shortlists of candidates should be ignored if there is not at least one female and one male candidate. The ECON Committee had also underlined this position again in a letter to the Eurogroup. With the sole candidate Elderson, however, this demand was simply ignored by the Eurogroup. Also, in the pre-selection process there was only one further male candidate, the Slovenian Boštjan Jazbec.
The conflict between the Eurogroup and the European Parliament on appointments to the ECB’s Executive Board is not new. Already the appointments of Yves Mersch in 2012, Luis de Guindos in 2018, Philip Lane in 2019 and Fabio Panetta in 2020 were criticised by the Parliament for a lack of gender balance in the selection process. Currently, the ECB’s six-member Executive Board consists of four men and two women, President Christine Lagarde and Isabel Schnabel. The latter are also the only two women on the Governing Council of the ECB, which consists of the Executive Board and the 19 governors of the euro area central banks. It is the ECB’s top-most decision-making body.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group, commented:
“Elderson’s confirmation is another setback for gender equality in EU financial institutions. The gender balance in the Governing Council of the ECB remains disastrous. Of the 25 members, only two are women. Yet there is hardly a body that has more influence, especially in times of crisis. The time for demands and appeals is therefore over. Selection procedures without a female candidate must no longer exist. Parliament must consistently implement its own decision and simply ignore one-sided lists of candidates. Otherwise, the totally unacceptable selection procedure by the Eurogroup will seemingly be legitimised.
We Greens voted against the candidate for reasons of gender equality. This was not easy for us since Elderson stands for strong climate protection in financial supervision and monetary policy. Expertise and ability must be the decisive criteria when awarding top positions. But there must be both male and female candidates. By completely refusing to consider female candidates, the Eurogroup has severely damaged the selection process”.
Following the nomination of Elderson by the Eurogroup in early October and the ECB Governing Council’s approval last week, Elderson appeared on 9th of November 2020, for a hearing before the ECON Committee. A video recording of his hearing is available here. The questionnaire that the candidate had to answer in advance of the hearing can be found here. Frank Elderson is a strong candidate from a technical point of view. Since 2011 he has been head of banking supervision at the Dutch central bank. During his term of office Elderson also pursued initiatives for a greener financial system. For example, he founded the Dutch “Sustainable Finance Platform”, which brings central bankers and finance ministers in contact with civil society organisations, and as co-founder he established the “Network for Greening the Financial System” of central banks and supervisory authorities.
Should the Council of Ministers appoint Frank Elderson to the Executive Board of the ECB, he may be appointed Vice-President of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). This decision would then have to be approved by the European Parliament in a separate procedure including another hearing.
Video recording of Frank Elderson’s hearing before the ECON Committee on 9 November 2020:
Questionnaire answered by Frank Elderson ahead of the hearing before the ECON Committee:
P.S.: TOMORROW: Webinar “Deregulation For Future” on financial regulation in the pandemic and beyond with top economists William White and Daniela Gabor. Tuesday, 10 November 2020, 8-10pm CET. Register here now!