July 26, 2019 / 6:00 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-World Bank's Georgieva added to EU list of candidates to lead IMF

(adds source, details)

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS, July 26 (Reuters) - European Union governments are working to select one European candidate from a list of five names to succeed Christine Lagarde at the helm of the International Monetary Fund, a French official said on Friday.

Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva, chief executive of the World Bank, has been added to a list of four names that were discussed by EU finance ministers at a G7 meeting last week, the official said.

France is leading the selection process for a European candidate. The managing directors of the Washington-based IMF have so far always been European, under a deal with the United States that gives the presidency of the World Bank to a U.S. candidate.

In addition to Georgieva, the other four European candidates that are under consideration at this stage are: Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch former head of euro zone finance ministers; Spanish economy minister Nadia Calvino; Mario Centeno, the Portuguese chairman of euro zone finance ministers; and Finnish central bank governor Olli Rehn.

EU governments remain split, with northern European countries preferring Dijsselbloem or Rehn, and southern states pushing for Calvino or Centeno, a European official said.

Georgieva, 65, is likely to have the support of eastern European countries, but her candidacy would require a change in the IMF’s rules, which require candidates for the post of managing director to be less than 65 years old.

EU states agreed those rules should be changed, but the decision can only be taken by the IMF itself, which has begun a debate on the matter, the French official said.

The IMF board announced on Friday that the selection process for the next IMF head will start on July 29 and will last until Sept. 6, which will be the last day to submit a candidacy. The new managing director will be chosen by Oct. 4.

If Europeans failed to reach a compromise on any of the five names under discussion, they could field more than one candidate, the European source said, although that would be “a bad signal” and could weaken Europe’s chance of reappointing the IMF chief.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday ruled himself out of contention for the IMF job on Thursday, after reports that France was lobbying hard for him to take the role. Lagarde has been nominated to succeed Draghi at the ECB.

Candidates from other countries are also likely to be pushed forward to lead the Fund, whose membership includes nearly all the world’s nations.

If divisions remained within the EU bloc, new European names could also emerge, the official added.

France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had said he was aiming for a decision on a European candidate by end-July.

But if no compromise is found by next week, the decision could be made on the sidelines of a G7 leaders’ summit on 24-26 August in Biarritz, France, the European official said.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Catherine Evans

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