May 19th, 2011
03:16 PM GMT
The Europeans are in a tricky position. They desperately want to keep the top job at the IMF, but they can’t be seen to be nakedly saying “it’s ours by right.”
So leaders from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to finance ministers from Austria, Sweden and Denmark, (in fact just about anyone from Europe who has opened their mouth on the subject), are turning linguistic cartwheels to promote a European solution.
These are the arguments:
The standard formula runs something like this:
1. Of course, the best person should get the job.
2. Europe has the best person … give us the job.
There is a variation introduced by Angela Merkel of Germany which goes this way:
1. Of course over the mid term the job should be open to everyone BUT
2. At the moment, with Europe in such a mess it should go to a European. Give us the job.
The newest argument to be invented is that it should be Europe’s because … wait for it….
1. European Union countries collectively are the biggest shareholders of the fund
2. We pay the most. Give us the job.
The Europeans are desperate not to give up this role – and frankly for its own political reasons, nor is the United States. Because under the existing arrangements if Europe loses the IMF the U.S. might lose their automatic right to the World Bank presidency.
The quickest way to make sure there is no change in the status quo is for Europe speedily to agree a consensus candidate. Get them out into the open before the other countries even have time to hold a meeting. This is one reason why the name of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (pictured above) is being promoted so heavily. The hope is by getting her name out into the open, they can get American agreement before other voting blocks even realize what’s happened. Get the Americans on board and it’s a done deal.
If the candidate is Christine Lagarde then the contest is probably just about over. She was an intern to a top U.S. congressman. She is a former chairman of the law firm Baker & McKenzie. And she has been minister for trade and industry and is now finance minister of France. Christine Lagarde has the experience, diplomacy, stature and reputation that would make her just about unbeatable.
Provided of course … the Europeans get moving ... fast.
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