UK decides to move into the dog-house, rejects a merit-based decision

Despite starting off this mad week well, with a plan to “concentrat[e] on is who is the best person for the job”, British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has decided that he doesn’t even want to know who is going to be nominated before he backs French finance minster Christine Lagarde for the top post that the IMF. According to news reports today, he proclaimed: “On the basis of merit, I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF – and that’s why Britain will back her.” Osborne, from the Conservative party, in his statement seemed to favour Lagarde’s penchant for fiscal austerity.

For history buffs, in 2007 when Strauss-Kahn was running for the job, the UK, then run by Gordon Brown as prime minister, was the only European country to hold out on picking a candidate until after nominations closed. Nominations closed on August 31, 2007; and the UK agreed to support Strauss-Kahn only on September 5, 2007. That principled stand by the Labour government, looked like heralding a break with the past tradition of stitching up a decision behind closed doors in Brussels. Alas, it seems George Osborne could only stick to his principles for about 4 days.

This puts the UK firmly in the dog-house with most other major European countries.

In the dog house: UK, Germany, Barroso, Italy, Austria, Spain, Ireland and Belgium

In the limelight: no one right now

European positions on the selection process

Country
Person
What was said
Assessment
Austria Finance minister Maria Fekter “There is great interest in this tradition that a European leads the IMF and the Europeans are fighting for this now” Completely backward
Belgium Finance minister Didier Reynder “It is preferable that Europe keeps its place at the heart of the IMF. There is for the moment an equilibrium between the United States, with the World Bank, and Europe, at the Fund. We have to keep that …” Unreformed
Bulgaria unknown
Cyprus unknown
Czech Republic unknown
Denmark unknown
Estonia unknown
Finland unknown
France Finance minister Christine Lagarde “I think it would be particularly inappropriate for me to make the slightest comment” Wants the job
Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel “I believe that in the current situation, given that we have considerable problems with the euro and that the IMF is very strongly involved here, much can be said for the possibility of installing a European candidate. I am of the opinion that we should propose a European candidate.” Unreformed
Finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble “Should Christine Lagarde decide to be a candidate, Europe would have the best chances of again filling the post”
Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle “The fact that we Europeans have an interest (in making sure) that our European influence doesn’t diminish — that should be clear. It is self-evident that we are steering negotiations in this direction.”
Greece unknown
Hungary unknown
Ireland Finance minister Michael Noonan “in my view if there is to be a new chairman of the IMF it should be a European candidate…because I believe it’s in our interests” Unreformed
Italy Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi “The current finance minister Christine Lagarde would be an excellent choice. It is vital to reach a common European position as soon as possible which favours one candidate to head up the International Monatory Fund in Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s place Unreformed
Latvia unknown
Lithuania unknown
Luxembourg Prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker “Mr Strauss-Kahn has not resigned and I do not know either if he is guilty. Why are half of the European governments asking themselves the question of who should replace him?” Legalese
Malta unknown
Netherlands unknown
Norway unknown
Poland unknown
Portugal unknown
Romania unknown
Slovakia unknown
Slovenia unknown
Spain Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero “I think it should be a European (the new head of the IMF)” Unreformed
Sweden Finance Minister Anders Borg “I would argue that Christine Lagarde has outstanding credentials”  Pretty bad
Switzerland unknown
United Kingdom Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne “On the basis of merit, I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF – and that’s why Britain will back her.” (on 21 May before the candidates could even be submitted for nomination) Unreformed
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso “I think it should be a European.”On the Bank and Fund leaderships: “If they [Europe and US] are doing a good job why should we replace them. I think they should go on.” Really unreformed

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