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Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva is EU's candidate for IMF chief, French minister says

Kristalina Georgieva
EU finance ministers have selected their nominee to be the next chief of the IMF in a move that would require a change of the institution’s rules.

Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian chief executive of the World Bank Group, was chosen in a secret ballot on Friday evening as the group’s preferred candidate for the job, according to France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire. Ms. Georgieva has also served as vice president of the EU’s executive body.

After frantic phone call diplomacy in Berlin, Paris, The Hague and Madrid on Friday, Ms Georgieva narrowly won a head-to-head run-off against Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch former chair of the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers. Financial times reported

Ms Georgieva is now favourite to become the next head of the IMF when the fund’s governing board votes on candidates in early October. 

No other candidates from large emerging economies have declared their candidacy. Under a convention with the US, a European usually leads the IMF and an American national heads the World Bank. 

Finance ministries in Sweden and the Netherlands initially contested the result because Ms Georgieva failed to meet the complex thresholds set out under EU weighted-voting rules. 

In a secret ballot Ms Georgieva won the support of 56 per cent of the bloc’s 28 member states, representing 57 per cent of the population of the EU. 

Mr Dijsselbloem commanded the support of 44 and 43 per cent, respectively, a senior official told the FT. 

But Ms Georgieva failed to meet the 65 per cent population criterion, leading to challenges from Stockholm and The Hague. But, after two hours of debate over a conference call between ministers on Friday evening, Mr Dijsselbloem conceded defeat. 

“I congratulate Kristalina Georgieva with the outcome of today’s European votes. I wish her the utmost success”, Mr Dijsselbloem tweeted on Friday night. 

Ms Georgieva said she would take a leave of absence from the World Bank during the IMF nomination process which is set to conclude in early October. 

She tweeted: “It is an honor to be nominated as a candidate for the role of Managing Director of the #IMF. After consulting with the Chief Ethics Officer, I have requested administrative leave and will relinquish my responsibilities as @WorldBank CEO for the nomination period.” 

The result is another victory for Emmanuel Macron after France succeeded in winning the presidency of the European Central Bank for Christine Lagarde and securing a Belgian to head the European Council last month. 

Paris was one of Ms Georgieva’s biggest backers, a stance that divided France from its eurozone allies in Berlin and The Hague. 

Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister who led negotiations for the EU, welcomed the “excellent news”. 

“Since every candidate was highly qualified,” he said, “it was clear that the selection process had to be pursued in greater depth.  Kristalina Georgieva is now the candidate of the European countries, and we will support her fully. 

Ms Georgieva has all the skills needed as well as the experience and international credibility to succeed to Christine Lagarde and to lead the IMF successfully.”

 The choice to have a secret vote, carried out by finance ministries using email, was a controversial and highly unusual way to decide on Europe’s IMF choice. 

It was designed to end weeks of acrimonious talks between European capitals. The UK, which did not put forward a nominee and objected to the process, abstained altogether. 

Ms Georgieva, a former EU commissioner for Bulgaria, is a highly respected economist who won plaudits during her time at the World Bank. 

Should she be appointed in October, she would become the first eastern European national to take charge of the Fund.

The Washington-based IMF has 189 member countries. Since its creation in 1945, the IMF has always had a European managing director.

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