Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain ministers eye top eurozone job

BRUSSELS (AP) — Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and his Luxembourg counterpart Pierre Gramegna threw their hats into the leadership ring Thursday, joining Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calviño as official candidates to head the powerful bloc of 19 nations using Europe’s single currency.

The person eventually named president of the Eurogroup faces a mammoth task chaperoning the eurozone through what is predicted to be Europe’s deepest recession in a century, as the coronavirus ravages economies around the world.

Portugal’s Mario Centeno announced on June 11 that he was stepping down as Eurogroup president after completing his 2.5-year term.

Should she be named, Calviño — a respected economist well known to European Union officials for her years of work at the European Commission — would be the first woman to hold the job.

Donohoe pledged that “if elected, I will work to chart a common way forward on building the European recovery, strengthening the eurozone economy, and promoting sustainable and inclusive growth for member states and their citizens.”

In a tweet just before the deadline for submitting candidates expired, Gramegna said: “I will use my 6-year experience, all my energy and diplomacy for this task.”

“Today’s momentous challenges require consensus and compromise between all eurozone members - small or large,” he said.

Eurogroup finance ministers will discuss the candidates’ merits at their next video meeting on July 9. Presidents are elected by a simple majority vote. Centeno will step down three days later.

“We will strike the right balance, but with one idea in mind, to elect a president that can handle all goals and challenges in the coming months and years. The choice will not be trivial, it will be of high quality,” Centeno said earlier this month.

The Eurogroup’s main task is to ensure the close coordination of economic policies among the 19 member countries. While an unofficial body in EU terms, it remains extremely powerful and its image was badly tainted in Greece for its handling of the country’s debt crisis.

The candidacy of Calviño, who is also one of the four deputy prime ministers in Spain’s left-wing coalition government, had been rumored for weeks. She worked for 12 years at the bloc’s executive commission; four of them in charge of the EU budget.

Since joining Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez’s Cabinet, she has been a staunch defender of economic orthodoxy and often perceived as a moderate counterbalance to the anti-austerity approach of the coalition government’s small partner, Pablo Iglesias’ Unidas Podemos (United We Can).

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Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.

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