The Presidency of the EBRD at the heart of an unprecedented struggle between Europeans

Posted on 5 avril 2005 par

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Five Candidates are still contesting the presidency of the EBRD. For the first time, the procedure could leave the closed circle of Ecofin countries. L’Echo 15 May 2012

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, one of the contender

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, one of the contender

On the edge of the City of London stands the EBRD building. Its marble stairs, a vestige from the time of Jacques Attali, the first president, the restaurant Steak Exchange on its left, Liverpool Street station on its right and in front an imposing statue by Botero. The marble corridors, going from a rough to a smooth texture, which for the architects behind the building symbolised the passage of ex-USSR countries from a communist economy to a market economy, sparked controversy at the time. The critics now belong to the past. The bank has more pressing matters to deal with: the election of its next president, the sixth to date.

For the first time, the designation process should be more open. Until now, the president was appointed every four years by the ministers of Ecofin, the member states of the European Union representing 64% of the votes, it seemed “logical” to the other shareholders to let them decide. All the more so because the US was given the post of first vice-president. An agreement was reached at the time of EBRD’s creation, between Thatcher and Mitterand, that the bricks, and therefore the seat, of the institution would be in London, and the leadership given to France. Of the five first Presidents, three were French, and two, including the current President Thomas Mirow, were German.

Personal ambitions, a current trend in matters of governance, as well as a lack of unanimity around the French candidate mean that the EBRD will face elections for the first time. From the council chamber, decorated with the flags of the 64 member states and a library filled with books sculpted into stone, a present from the mayor of London in 1993 to symbolise science guiding the administration council in its decisions, the 64 shareholders will have to elect the next president of the EBRD on 18 May. They should have to: nothing is certain yet. The ministers of Ecofin could, at the meeting on 15 May, prefer to respect tradition and decide between themselves the name of the next head of the organisation.

Five Pretenders In The Running

Five contenders are competing: Pole Jan Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland, Franco-Serb Bozidar Djelic, ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and Governor of the World Bank, Sir Suma Chakrabarti (UK), current Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, Philippe de Fontaine Vive Curtaz (France), Vice President of the EIB and head of funding in Mediterranean countries, and the current President, Thomas Mirow (Germany). Mirow does not enjoy the support of his country. Merkel, more attracted by other posts such as the head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), has agreed with Nicolas Sarkozy that the head of the EBRD will go to a Frenchman.

Increasing Pressure

Implicit in these elections is the increasing pressure of certain countries in favour of a more democratic process to appoint the heads of international institutions. The last example to date, the election of the President of the World Bank, was a flop. Between the two candidates still in the race, the American Jim Yong Kim and the Nigerian minister of finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the American won, as the custom demands it since 1946. Will this change on 18 May? Will it all be decided in the close circle of finance ministers which meets today? The answers to these questions will be revealed shortly.

What's EBRD

Translation: Tom Smith

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