All eyes on Kildare
Last week we posted about the seemingly arcane shuffling of international economic and political jobs. Horst Kohler is leaving the job of managing director of the IMF to become President of Germany, and in sticking with the tradition that the European Union (meaning the big EU countries) gets to fill the IMF job, it was assumed that his successor would be the outgoing finance minister of Spain.
But then things got complicated. The whole process of selecting these job candidates is not transparent but it certainly seems that the ill-will generated towards the outgoing Spanish government by the 11-M bombings made things worse. So as the Wall Street Journal reports (subs. req'd) today:
Interviews with European diplomats suggest some EU governments are dividing their support between two candidates [for the IMF MD job]. One is Rodrigo Rato, the lame-duck finance minister of Spain; the other is Jean Lemierre, a Frenchman and head of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, a London organization that works with emerging nations in Europe.
The noises seem to indicate that an "old Europe" Paris-Berlin entente exists regarding the Frenchman with the other countries left to decide whether to play along with the big boys or stay behind the Spanish candidate that they may not be especially excited about. But the job search doesn't end there. France did a major cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, and for the most of the world that only is aware of French politics from glimpses on TV, that means farewell then Dominique de Villepin's impeccable tan (he's the one on the left), and Luc Ferry's silly hair.
But it also creates a new open slot on the European Commission (the EU's executive body, in Brussels) because one of France's commissioners is returning to take de Villepin's foreign affairs job i.e. to display Gallic insouciance as Colin Powell waves around anthrax vials at UN Security Council meetings. Then there's the fact that the European Commission President, Romani Prodi, is already campaigning for his next desired job, taking over from Silvio Berlusconi as PM of Italy. [update 2 april: even though France immediately filled the commission spot vacated by de Villepin's successor, two other slots are open; one being vacated by monetary affairs commissioner Pedro Solbes who is joining the new Socialist government in Spain in Rato's old job, and a new competitiveness commissioner position created but not yet filled] . And Europe being Europe, how one of these jobs is filled will affect all the others.
And as we pointed out last week, who will conduct the next performance of this crazy orchestra and where will the performance take place? Irish Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy will wave the baton, at Punchestown racecourse in County Kildare. But Punchestown gets dissed by the same WSJ report:
The officials hope to reach agreement on a candidate for the Washington-based IMF as early as this weekend at an informal meeting of European Union finance ministers near Dublin.
Near Dublin? Sure half of Ireland meets that description.