ECB Appoints New Board Member Despite Objections Over Gender

Yves Mersch of Luxembourg was appointed to the executive board of the European Central Bank on Thursday, despite opposition to the post being filled by a man. Mersch, who is also currently head of the Luxembourg central bank, will take the post on December 15 for an 8-year term.

Mersch was appointed late Thursday at a summit in Brussels, where leaders were discussing a long-term budget for the single-currency bloc. Mersch, whose views tend to be aligned with those of German central bankers, was nominated in July to succeed José Manuel González-Páramo of Spain on the six-member board, but a dispute over gender — the board is currently comprised solely of men — left the post vacant for months, with the European Parliament eventually rejecting the nomination. Earlier this month, Spain also blocked the appointment, saying it objected to the process being used.

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Objections were not solely predicated on gender. Some members of the European Parliament were turned off by some of Mersch’s less-popular economic ideas, particularly his wariness of inflation. Others, including the Spanish, had rather hoped to replace González-Páramo with another representative from southern Europe, the region struggling most in the debt crisis.

But the issue of gender stood out as Sharon Bowles, head of the economic and monetary affairs committee, brought up the issue of making institutions like central banks more democratically accountable. “The ECB now has a member on its highest board without a democratically established mandate,” said Bowles, who has fought to give women more prominence in central banking.

Bowles reminded EU leaders of earlier promises to establish a plan that would bring greater gender diversity to central banks. But ultimately hers and other objections were cast aside as more pressing issues — namely, dealing with the debt crisis — weighed more heavily in the decision.

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