Spanish Vice President Nadia Calviño will not chair the Eurogroup . Just like what happened to Luis de Guindos in 2015, it has remained on the doorstep. Only one vote was missing in the second round, according to the Prime Minister; the one achieved by the Irish Paschal Donohoe , with the support of the powerful European People's Party.
Losing a battle for the presidency of the Eurogroup, a challenge of this caliber, with the support of the four powers of the Eurozone and governments that represent more than 80% of its population, is unusual and very difficult to digest. It is a fiasco for the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the projection of Spain abroad. It is a jug of cold water for the vice president, the favorite for weeks and the most appreciated by the 'Brussels bubble', and for her ambition. And it is also the result of a 'small rebellion' that shows how in the Europe of 2020 the rules and balances of the past are not enough.
Her rivals managed to convey that the Spanish was a "divisive " figure , with too firm opinions and too radical an agenda for the transformation of the Eurozone and the reforms that are still pending. There has been a clear campaign against it in some capitals and in Brussels itself. And it has worked. Donohoe, with an infinitely lower profile, was presented as a consensus option . Someone capable of "building bridges, a member of the small countries against the candidate of the big ones, leading a more than symbolic rebellion against the Franco-German axis and its latest proposals.
Blow to the interests of Spain
The news is very bad for Spain, in terms of image, projection, ability to influence and ahead of the negotiations in the coming weeks and months . Spain leaves weakened and having to force . The Eurogroup presidency does not give executive powers to its manager, there is no casting vote or unilateral decision-making capacity. But if you give the ability to control and set the agenda , prioritize certain issues, seek consensus. You can decide when to continue or stop a debate, when to press or not. Choose the language and be the public face of the ministers, be the spokesperson, the one who sets the tone, the ambition and the one who acts as an interlocutor, for example, with the heads of state and government at the summits of the European Council.
And at a time when issues such as the EU Recovery Fund of up to 750,000 million euros, the Community Budget until 2027, have to be decided or outlined , complete the Banking Union or outline how the process will be to evaluate the National Plans of Reforms and who will have the last word on conditionality so that countries can receive Community funds, having someone at the head of the Eurogroup seemed vital.
Now there will be a man from the PPE, who in recent weeks in Brussels has attacked Spain and its economic policy and who defends a much harder line in the face of economic governance. And Donohoe, in addition, knows that it comes from the hand of some of the so-called 'frugal', such as the Netherlands and Austria. And if future Reform Plans and conditionality for the disbursement of funds are decided in the Eurogroup, their role will be key.
A tight vote
Calviño started as a favorite with the explicit support of Germany, Italy and France , although only the latter has been public today. Or that of Greece and Portugal. However, in recent weeks the pools have been very tight. Luxembourg's Gramegna, from the liberal family, was the one with the least support, having his Dutch and Belgian vote in principle, and fell after the first round. However, the Irishman Donohoe, who hesitated until the last moment whether to appear, had the structure of the PPE and the sympathy of the governments of the liberal court for the second round, once his candidate was discarded.
And it is exactly what happened. "Congratulations with all my heart, Paschal, on your election as President of the Eurogroup. I wish you all the success and I am looking forward to working with you in your new role", congratulated Gramegna. "Congratulations to Paschal on his election as president. I look forward to working together to ensure a robust recovery that leaves no one behind," said the Spanish for her part in a much less effusive message and above all, with a message from very deep background that points to everything that is at stake from now on.
All the sources consulted in the last few days expected a very successful result and looked at the last-minute efforts. The Spanish and the Prime Minister, in a few weeks loaded with phone calls, teleconferences, pressure and insistence, managed to scratch some votes, but not enough. Too little and too late.
The remote voting system used yesterday is so secret that not only can nobody know who has voted for whom or will never know it, but in theory only the three candidates know how many votes each one has had. What lent itself to all kinds of combinations, tricks and betrayals. After the first round there was a much longer pause than anticipated. Some doubted whether Gramegna would try to stay, and not quit. But props were being squared, with mobile phones fuming. And the numbers came out. The Eurogroup has always been criticized for its opacity and, in this, it is consistent even in its very basic operation
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