• Eurogroup.'Operación Torniquete ', the Government tries to ensure that Nadia Calviño does not lose support three days after the Eurogroup vote
  • World Trade Organization. Laya withdraws from the WTO race just a day before Calviño's vote to chair the Eurogroup

This Thursday, the Eurogroup holds one of its most anticipated meetings. Informal body of the ministers of economy, during the financial crisis, the debt crisis and the euro crisis became the basic instrument of the EU. In recent years its weight had dropped, and some wondered even if it made sense for it to continue to exist. But the pandemic has returned ministers to the front row and revived Spain's interest in occupying the presidency that Luis de Guindos could never achieve.

What does the Eurogroup decide today? It has to choose its next president. It is a mandate of two and a half years for which it is 'obligatory' to be Minister of Finance in your country, even if there are no written rules. The Portuguese Mário Centeno is now running out of time, and there are three candidates: the Spanish Nadia Calviño (socialist), the Irish Paschal Donohoe (Popular Party) and the Luxembourg liberal Pierre Gramegna. How is the president chosen? It is a secret vote that will be conducted electronically using a confidential platform. If the system works, no one will ever know what each minister voted for. Each candidate will make an intervention explaining their reasons and asking for the vote. There will then be a round of votes and only two Council officials will have access to the results, but not disaggregated. They will explain to each candidate, and in theory only to them, how many votes they have taken. Winning requires a simple majority, 10 of the 19 votes. If neither succeeded in the first round, the rule is that the one with the least withdraws. Then there would be a second vote and whoever gets the most votes wins. Is Calviño going to win? It is impossible to anticipate. She has the public vote of Portugal, Germany or Italy. With that of France and Greece as well, although they have not been spoken aloud. And in theory it has managed to tie the one from Finland. The Luxembourger is guaranteed that of his country, Belgium and the Netherlands a priori. And the Irish to Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia or Latvia. The Spanish Government has multiplied the rounds of calls, by the vice president and the president himself, and they aspire to convince the socialist Malta (which, however, has a position on taxation closer to that of the other two candidates) and the Mediterranean (and also rescued in the past) Cyprus. The latter are from the popular family, but so are Greece and Athens is inclined in principle to the Spanish. Some Baltics or Slovakia itself may be flexible. In any case, being the secret vote, the carambolas and betrayals can alter the forecasts. What realistic options does the Spanish have? A priori it is the favorite, as it can only be the one who has the support of the four great powers of the Eurozone. But all the sources consulted, in the Government, Brussels and other capitals believe that it will be very fair and as the weeks and days go by optimism slows down. The vice president estimates that she has options to win in the first round if any of the undecided or non-aligned opts for her option. But if there is a second round and the Irish or the Luxembourger withdraw, it is expected that popular and liberals will do a clamp. And the numbers come out. What does presiding over the Eurogroup entail? It does not give effective power, there is no individual or unique decision-making capacity, but a president can organize the agenda, prioritize issues, choose the format of the meeting, push or stop issues, stall or unblock discussions. It is also a representative position. She is the spokesperson for the finance ministers, her voice to the media and to the heads of state and government, as she has to report to the European Council often. It gives packaging, luster and name. And as seen in the past, a personality presidency can be decisive in big discussions in times of deep crisis. Facing a negotiation like the current one on the EU Budget and the Recovery Fund (although it is at the level of heads of government), and the subsequent drafting of regulations. Or in the debate over national reform plans and aid conditionality, having someone like Calviño in command can be decisive. Do I want Europe to 'domesticate' Spain by giving it the Eurogroup? There are no gifts or prizes or attempts to tame. The pressure of 'Europe' is often exaggerated or misinterpreted. If Calviño wins, it is because he will have obtained sufficient support, and precisely against the countries most concerned with orthodoxy, frugality and skyrocketing public spending. They want as president someone with a more conservative, less ambitious vision on the Eurozone and with a less active agenda and political vision in everything that has to do with taxation or harmonization. So there are no 'national' effects? change, remains to be seen. Calviño 'fights' within the Council of Ministers with his colleagues. It has had especially serious clashes with Escrivá and the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz. President Sánchez promoted her to vice-president this legislature and also, she is at the head of the Delegated Commission of Economy, collegiate body that coordinates the economic policy of the Government. Facing very difficult decisions in the coming months, that the vice president is also responsible for the Eurogroup, of course, that it has effects. Although there are no exemplary rules, it would be rare if the coordinator of European ministers in full talks on ambitious reforms did not gain internal weight in her vision. And that she did not have more margin to impose her ideas and, above all, to stop, change or dilute the ideas of the United We Can program. Would a vice-president of the Eurogroup be the voice of austerity? It does not have to. Centeno is a Social Democratic minister in a left-wing coalition government and in these two and a half years has not led his country to any clash. Presumably, with that position Pablo Iglesias and his ministers had more difficulties, but nothing that is not already happening. What the vice president does in the future, if the Government changes its economic policy, is her decision, not imposed by anyone. It would not be ruled out that a way of giving confidence to the neighbors, or receiving their support, was showing a more rigorous line in the public accounts and the reforms that the Commission has recommended for years and Spain ignores again and again. But that, with a contraction like the current one and a growth in debt and deficit, and with reforms being part of the conditions that will be demanded, was probably going to be inevitable as well.

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Know more

  • Eurogroup
  • Nadia Calviño

EuropeThe European PP tries to dilute Calviño's candidacy for the presidency of the Eurogroup

EuropaSánchez claims to see "with very good eyes" the candidacy of Nadia Calviño as president of the Eurogroup

World Trade OrganizationLaya withdraws from the WTO race just a day before Calviño's vote to chair the Eurogroup

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