Vestager warns against defense and nuclear investments in EIB speech – POLITICO

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — The European Investment Bank should not become a “political battleground” for investments in nuclear energy or defense, said Margrethe Vestager, who is trying to convince finance ministers to European Union to choose her at the head of the powerful government-backed lender. .

Vestager, currently on leave as head of the EU’s digital and antitrust sector, is a leading candidate to succeed President Werner Hoyer next year and run the bank that finances EU policies, from the fight against climate change to the reconstruction of Ukraine.

She stressed that a successful candidate needs broad support, including from small countries, because “banking is for everyone, big shareholders as well as small shareholders,” she told POLITICO on the sidelines of the a meeting of finance ministers in Santiago de Compostela.

France and Germany, which together with Italy represent almost half of the bank’s capital, have not specified who they would support. France is pushing for a candidate to be in favor of directing EIB funds towards nuclear projects and defense investments. He also wants someone to be prepared for the cautious lender to take on more risk.

Germany stressed that “A healthy bank is essential” and “the EIB’s mission must not be too broad,” Finance Minister Christian Lindner said before the meeting.

Nuclear “is a good example of the fact that banking should not be an arena for political combat,” Vestager said. The EIB “should not take sides” and should “engage in processes likely to find a new balance”.

Regarding defense investments, she said that “many of those who buy bonds from the bank have very strict financing guidelines themselves. You don’t want to jeopardize a lot of financing for a little financing, if that ‘is in a controversial area.’

Even as Vestager calls for political caution, she said she would “figure out how to take more risks” as EIB chief to ensure European startups and businesses get the financing they need to grow.

Vestager has a serious rival for the post: Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calviño, who is considered a leading candidate. Other candidates include Daniele Franco, former Italian finance minister, and EIB vice-presidents Teresa Czerwińska and Thomas Östros, from Poland and Sweden respectively.

Any candidate needs the support of at least 18 EU countries holding at least 68 percent of its share capital.

While a decision was initially expected to be made in Santiago, “I don’t think we’re there yet,” said Belgian Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem, who is in charge of the process.


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