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MES does not yet have a new executive director: candidates are withdrawing

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Brussels. Nothing was done for the new executive director of the European Stability Mechanism. Two weeks into the end of current manager Klaus Regling’s mandate, none of the four candidates who have presented themselves as his successor have been named. Pierre Grammegna and João Leo, the names put on the table by Luxembourg and Portugal respectively, withdrew after failing to attract 80% of the approval of the board members to be elected. Actually nothing, so now it’s running against time. “It will continue with efforts and consultations”, was the reaction of the President of the Eurogroup, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who did not hide any hint of disappointment. “They were both excellent candidates.”

The intergovernmental body has been working on a new executive director since May. Four of them showed up at the starting line. In addition to Grammegna, Dutch Mello Snell and Italian Marco Butti, a long-time European official and former head of the Commission’s Directorate General for Economy and Finance, head of the Cabinet of Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni. Buti retired first, then Snell. The general expectation was that skimming would signal the new head of the mess, but this was not the case.

Now, instead of racing for the top seat, it will be a race against time. Regling’s replacement will be found by Oct. 7, the last day of his term. As of now, there is no change in the deadline. We want to close everything on schedule, and the Eurogroup on October 3 still represents the last chance. But we have to start from scratch with new candidates and possible new iron weapons.

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The Eurozone’s bailout fund is the European Establishment Mechanism (ESM), an intergovernmental organization based in Luxembourg. Established in 2021, its main mission is to provide financial assistance to member states in difficulty. In recent years it has lent to Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and especially Greece. But the body has undergone a legal change that makes it not just a screen against shocks, but a central element of the wider banking union. Adding responsibilities for banks’ liquidity crises to help with sovereign debt. However, the reason for the ESM reform was the failure to agree an agreement between Germany and Italy. A Constitutional Court ruling is awaited in the Federal Republic, and in Italy the go-ahead from Parliament has not yet been reached, causing discontent among stakeholders.

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