BRUSSELS European leaders will decide next week whether Luxembourg's Yves Mersch should join the ECB's top table, EU sources said, a choice ensnared in controversy over the lack of women in top EU posts.
Mersch's appointment to the European Central Bank's Executive Board has been held up by the European Parliament, which says member states are not trying hard enough to find suitable female candidates, and by Spain, which wants its own candidate.
A summit starting on November 22 will "briefly address the nomination of a member of the ECB executive board", minutes of a meeting of EU diplomats to prepare for the summit showed.
"We expect a decision to be taken," one of the EU sources told Reuters.
In a vote on October 25, the European Parliament rejected Mersch's candidacy by 325 votes to 300, with 49 abstentions.
Their rejection is not binding and ECB candidates are typically appointed by the EU's countries.
On Thursday Mersch will need a qualified majority of votes from the 27 countries to fill the sixth seat of the ECB's Executive Board. Each country is assigned a certain number of votes depending on the size of its population.
Mersch is an inflation-fighting hardliner whose policy views are close to those of the Bundesbank, the German central bank, which has lacked a close ally on the executive board since German Juergen Stark quit last year.
A last written vote by the 27 on November 5 was widely expected to appoint Mersch and draw a line under the row. But Spain kept the decision in doubt by opposing the nomination.
Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said earlier this month that Spain had "a clear willingness that a Spanish candidate should be appointed."
A Spanish diplomat in Brussels on Friday told Reuters Spain's intention was not to derail the process but that Madrid still wanted to discuss the presence of a Spanish candidate on the board.
EU leaders will meet in Brussels on November 22-23 to discuss the next long-term EU budget. The decision on Mersch will happen shortly before these discussions.
The controversy over Mersch's appointment has angered central bankers and policymakers who say the delay in filling the vacancy is causing practical problems.
"This is a problem you have to be able to afford in the first place," Elke Koenig, the head of Germany's supervisor Bafin said.
"He is wearing trousers but in a skirt he would not look any better.
Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell and Sirkka Hamalainen of Finland are the only two women to have occupied posts on the ECB's executive board since it was set up in 1998. There are currently no women at the top of the central bank.
(Reporting By Claire Davenport; additional reporting Charlie Dunmore and Robin Emmott; editing by Rex Merrifield/Ruth Pitchford)