Government committed to ‘broad compromise’ on choice of ESM chief

  • Lusa
  • 17 June 2022

João Leão, Portugal's former minister of finance from 2019 until earlier this year, is running for the post.

Portugal’s minister of finance, Fernando Medina, has said that the country’s government is committed to a “broad compromise” on the future executive director of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a post for which his predecessor, João Leão, is running, after Thursday’s vote was postponed.

“I want to stress here that Portugal has always, in these processes, as in all processes, been part of the solution,” Medina said in comments to Portuguese journalists on his way into a Eurogroup meeting of euro-zone finance ministers in Luxembourg. “Portugal is part of the solution in the field of European construction, in the field of deepening the intervention of the ESM … and, therefore, we will hold our dialogue and we will have our commitment with all our partners to find the best solution for the future of the Mechanism.”

He said that in the wake of the postponement, Portugal would “intensify contacts with the various member states starting today.

“Today’s meeting was important; there was no information that there would be no vote [but] the Presidency [of the Eurogroup] took the view that the conditions were not in place for a unanimous vote … and that it was important to be able to have more dialogue, to talk more about the process,” he said.

Recalling that the term of the ESM’s current executive director only ends in October, Medina said that the president of the Eurogroup had stressed that it was “advisable to have more time for dialogue between countries in order to have a compromise solution, a very broad compromise solution, which is what the rules themselves require.”

According to European sources, at Thursday’s meeting the ministers postponed, due to a lack of consensus, their formal discussion on the appointment of the next ESM executive director, a post for which Leão is running. The sources told Lusa that the ministers – who were meeting in Luxembourg for the annual meeting of the ESM Board of Governors – were unable to agree on a name among the three candidates for the post.

The other candidates are Pierre Gramegna, a former finance minister of Luxembourg, and Marco Buti, a former chief of staff to the European commissioner for the economy. One of these, or Leão, is to replace Klaus Regling of Germany, who has been executive director of the ESM since its creation in 2012 and whose term ends on 7 October.

As the new director only needs to take up his post by 8 October, there will be further discussion on the appointment between now and then, with no date yet set for the decision, the same European sources told Lusa.

The discussion had been on the agenda of the annual meeting of the ESM Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body of the organisation, composed of finance ministers of each of the governments of the 19 countries that are shareholders of the mechanism, the euro-zone countries.

It is up to these ministers to make this decision, in a vote taken by a qualified majority of 80% of votes cast, with voting rights equal to the number of shares allocated to each ESM member country in the authorised share capital. Portugal, for example, has voting rights of about 2.5%, against 26.9% for Germany and 20.2% for France – with these latter two countries thus having veto power.

João Leão was Portugal’s minister of finance from 2019 until earlier this year, having previously been secretary of state for budget.