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Danish EU commissioner pulls out of race for top job at European Investment Bank

Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commission’s powerful antitrust chief who took unpaid leave to seek the top job at European Investment Bank, is returning to the EU’s executive arm for the next few months, Denmark’s government said (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commission’s powerful antitrust chief who took unpaid leave to seek the top job at European Investment Bank, is returning to the EU’s executive arm for the next few months, Denmark’s government said (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

The European Union’s powerful anti-trust chief has withdrawn as a candidate for the presidency of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Danish government said on Friday, after EU finance ministers gave their support to someone else.

Margrethe Vestager, who took unpaid leave in September to pursue the bank job, plans to return to her role at the EU’s executive commission for a few months, the government in Copenhagen said.

The new president of the EIB, the 27-nation bloc’s development bank, is set to begin a six-year term on January 1.

“Out of respect for the further process, the government, together with Margrethe Vestager, has decided to withdraw the Danish candidature,” Denmark’s government said.

EU finance ministers have agreed to back Spain’s economy minister, Nadia Calvino, becoming the bank’s next president.

Ms Calvino, 55, said that under her leadership, the bank “will have an even more important role going forward to fund the green transition, to provide financial support to the rebuilding of Ukraine, and also support the role of Europe in the world”.

She will succeed Werner Hoyer, a German whose second mandate as EIB chief ends on December 31.

Her candidacy still requires approval from the bank’s board of directors and board of governors.

“Although we would have liked to see a different outcome, we are satisfied that there is now a clarification of the process,” Danish Business Minister Morten Bodskov said.

Ms Vestager is arguably one of the world’s most important tech regulators.

She slapped Google with multi-billion-dollar anti-trust penalties, ordered Apple and Amazon to pay back taxes and fined Facebook over its WhatsApp acquisition.

Such flagship enforcement cases struck fear in Silicon Valley and drew attention in Washington.

Ms Vestager also took on Starbucks and McDonald’s and looked into Nike’s tax arrangements.

Other targets have included Italian automaker Fiat and Russian gas giant Gazprom.

She confirmed her return to the European Commission, which polices EU laws and negotiates trade on behalf of member countries, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ms Vestager, who is a vice president of the executive commission as well as commissioner for competition, said she had wanted to reform the European Investment Bank bank by “making it more strategic, faster and more relevant”.

The mandate of the present European Commission expires next year.

Elections across the 27 member nations are scheduled for June 6-9.