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Divided EU taps Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva as IMF candidate

AFP-JIJI

In a fractious vote, EU ministers on Friday chose the Bulgarian No. 2 of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva, as the bloc’s candidate to become IMF chief.

Georgieva, if appointed, would become the second female managing director of the International Monetary Fund, after Christine Lagarde, who has stepped down to head the European Central Bank.

She is “now the European candidate for the new managing director of the IMF. She has all the required skills to successfully lead the IMF,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who led the process, wrote on Twitter.

The post of managing director of the IMF goes to a European by convention but not rule. The EU fears that too much division or hesitation may encourage support for candidates outside Europe.

Officials warned that Friday’s vote — an unprecedented step called by France in a bid to bridge divisions between Paris and Berlin and north and south — may not represent the end of the issue due to a series of possible snags.

Georgieva will theoretically be over the maximum age for an IMF chief, and although she won the vote she did not get the full majority under the EU’s complex rules. She will turn 66 this month, which would infringe a rule that the IMF’s managing director must be under 65 when appointed.

Georgieva won the support of 56 percent of EU countries representing 57 percent of the EU’s population, a source said, but an outright winner should have the support of at least 55 percent of the member states representing 65 percent of the EU’s 500 million people.

EU finance ministers held a telephone conference after the vote to discuss the outcome.

Georgieva has served as chief executive of the World Bank since 2017.

An economist by training, she was previously Bulgaria’s EU commissioner from 2010. In 2016, she was a leading candidate to become U.N. secretary-general before losing out to former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

The IMF plans to select its new leader by Oct. 4.

Other fund members would have to make an exception for her, “which is not a given,” according to one source close to the discussions.

However another source said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would support such an exception.

Last month Mnuchin emphasized at a meeting of G7 ministers that naming a European to head the IMF was a convention, “not an official policy.”

Possible non-European candidates could include the general manager of the Bank of International Settlements and former Bank of Mexico Gov. Agustin Carstens, and Lesetja Kganyago, the governor of the central bank of South Africa.