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European Parliament favors Ireland's Lane for ECB vice president job

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The economic committee of the European Parliament sees Irish central bank governor Philip Lane as a stronger candidate for the post of European Central Bank vice president than Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, its chairman said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Philip Lane, Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland speaks in London, Britain, October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

European Union leaders will consider the candidate put forward by euro zone finance ministers, who are set to formally endorse Lane or de Guindos next Tuesday.

The parliament, like the ECB, has only a consultative role in the process and its recommendations are not binding. Current ECB executive board member Yves Mersch was appointed in 2012 despite a negative opinion from the parliament.

The parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs had an informal hearing with the two on Wednesday.

“The majority of the political groups considered Governor Lane’s performance more convincing. Some groups expressed reservations for Minister De Guindos’s appointment,” the committee’s chairman Roberto Gualtieri said in a statement.

Two arguments against de Guindos are that he has no experience in central banking and is an active politician. That could cast doubt over his independence in dealing with macroprudential policy and financial stability, which are part of the remit of the ECB vice president.

“Luis de Guindos is also a threat to the independence of the ECB. As a long-standing member of the Eurogroup, de Guindos cannot carry out the new office independently,” said Sven Giegold, the spokesman for economic and financial affairs for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament.

“Lane has shown himself to be a distinguished and proven economist, De Guindos, on the other hand, as a politician who would like to be a top job at the ECB,” Giegold said.

Many senior euro zone officials have told Reuters de Guindos was more likely to get the job, while Lane could be chosen to succeed ECB chief economist Peter Praet next year.

The appointment is also seen as part of a larger puzzle of top jobs in the EU that will have to be filled by the end of 2019, including that of ECB president Mario Draghi.

France would like Draghi’s job to go to its own central bank governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau while some see the likely appointment of de Guindos as boosting the chance of a German rather than French candidate to lead the ECB.

A French government source said on Thursday France would “most likely” support de Guindos. French President Emmanuel Macron’s office declined to comment.

Euro zone ministers pick a candidate on Monday, with a formal vote on Tuesday when they are joined by non-euro zone EU finance ministers. The candidate then has a hearing with the parliament’s committee and the ECB is asked for an opinion.

The term of current vice president Vitor Constancio expires at the end of May.

Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Hugh Lawson