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MNI (London)
--Eurogroup to Choose Nominee Feb 19; Two Candidates -- de Guindos, Lane
--EU Parliament To Hold Informal Hearing Wednesday
By Jean Comte
     BRUSSELS (MNI) - Euro area Finance ministers will decide their nominee to
be next European Central Bank Vice-President at the Feb 19 Eurogroup meeting,
with Spain finance minister Luis de Guindos favourite to inherit the position,
MNI understands.
     Monday's Eurogroup decision will then be rubber-stamped by the Ecofin
meeting the following day, before being forwarded to the eurozone heads of
states for final approval on Mar 22.
     The position is currently held by Portugal's Vitor Constancio, whose term
ends in May. There are two names officially in the frame to replace him; de
Guindos and Philip Lane, Ireland's central bank president.
     De Guindos is seen as the most likely to get the position, sources told
     His campaign started months ago, with supporters noting Spain has not held
any of the 6 permanent seats of the ECB Executive Board since 2012 -- even
though unwritten protocols suggested that Spain, Germany, Italy and France must
always hold one board position each.
     De Guindos, a minister in the centre-right Spanish government of Mariano
Rajoy, appears to enjoy consensus support among EU officials. The only concern
for some is that he is the serving finance minister and would switch directly
from a government position to a central bank position -- an unprecedented move.
     Despite de Guindos' position as favourite, sources say that Lane would be
good vice-president, if chosen. "As governor of a national central bank, he
already knows well the ECB," pointed one source.
     However, sources suggest that Lane's late entry into the race suggest his
target is perhaps other executive board position that will open next year. The
terms of three executive board members will end in 2019: Belgium's Peter Praet
(May 2019), France's Benoit Coeure (December 2019) and the current President,
Italy's Mario Draghi (October 2019).
     Both Lane and de Guindos will be in Brussels Wednesday for informal talks
with key members of the European Parliament. The procedure was kept off the
official schedule, with no public announcement and likely no press release
     The procedure aims at letting MEPs raise alarms if they find either
candidate unsuitable for the role, one Parliament source told MNI.
     The EU Parliament will be formally consulted after the Eurogroup decision,
but the assembly cannot veto the choice. However it can hold a vote, and a
rejection could be seen as a de facto blocking of the nomination, as happened in
the 2012 slowing of Yves Mersch's appointment.
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email:
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