EU leaders pick France's Lagarde for ECB top job

July 03, 2019 08:57
Christine Lagarde is set to take the reins of the European Central Bank from Mario Draghi. Photo: Reuters

European Union leaders agreed on Tuesday to name France’s Christine Lagarde as the new head of the European Central Bank (ECB) and also sealed a deal on filling the EU’s other top four jobs, Reuters reports.

After three days of summit negotiations that at times looked close to collapse, the leaders reached  a deal that now must be approved by the European Parliament, the report said.

Under the deal, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a close ally of Angela Merkel, will replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.

Leaders hope the decision to nominate two women, Lagarde and von der Leyen, to the top of EU decision-making for the first time will send a positive message and repair damage wrought by a fractious summit.

Lagarde, once France’s first woman finance minister and since 2011 head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is a strong advocate of female empowerment, although she has no direct, active monetary policy experience.

The biggest task for Lagarde, who had previously denied any interest in an EU job, will be to revive the eurozone economy, Reuters noted.

“Christine Lagarde will ... be a perfect president of the European Central Bank,” said Donald Tusk, the outgoing chair of EU summits. “I am absolutely sure that she will be a very independent president ...”

Von der Leyen, if approved, would meanwhile run the powerful Commission, which supervises EU states’ budgets, acts as the bloc’s competition watchdog and conducts trade negotiations with outside countries.

Her presidency would shape policy for the world’s biggest trade bloc and its 500 million people.

In other decisions on Tuesday, Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, a socialist, was nominated as the EU’s new top diplomat in Brussels.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez secured the election of Belgium’s liberal caretaker prime minister, Charles Michel, to replace Tusk as chair of EU summits.

In that role as European Council president, Michel will be have the job of building compromises between the 28 member states.

Former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, the lead candidate for the liberals in May’s parliament election, were put forward as deputies under von der Leyen in the next Commission, which takes office on November 1.

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