Nomination of new National Bank director causes political problems
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    Nomination of new National Bank director causes political problems

    © World Economic Forum
    © World Economic Forum

    The nomination of former minister Steven Vanackere as a director of the steering council of the National Bank (BNB) has caused complaints among government coalition parties, and within Vanackere’s own CD&V party itself. The six directors of the council assist the governor and vice-governor in running the BNB, the country’s central bank. Vanackere, born in West Flanders, educated in law and economics in Leuven and now a resident of Neder-Over-Heembeek on the outskirts of Brussels, has held various ministerial posts in the Flemish and federal governments, including foreign affairs, administrative reform and government enterprises. His last ministerial post was for sustainable development and finance.

    He stepped down in 2013 over a controversial deal between Belfius bank abd ACW, the Christian movement of which he is a member. He went on to stand for the European Parliament but failed to be elected. He was then appointed to the Senate by his party without an election.

    Vanackere is the government’s official nominee for the post at the BNB, but he has not been formally appointed yet. In the meantime, other parties in the coalition have complained at hos CD&V has forced through is nomination without any serious deliberation with their partners.

    “It troubles me that we knew nothing about this,” said vice-premier Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), a leding critic of the nomination. “There was absolutely no effort to inform the other parties.” he has now demanded the subject be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the council of ministers.

    Vanackere’s nomination comes as one existing director and the current governor, both CD&V, step down. In normal circumstances, according to the way non-governmental posts are doled out among the parties, CD&V and N-VA would nominate replacement directors. However the government has already decided to reduce the board of directors by one position. CD&V have now antagonised their partners by snatching the sole remaining vacancy.

    His nomination has also come under fire from women, including within his own party, for maintaining the overall white, middle-aged and male character of the higher reaches of the BNB. Vanackere would replace Marcia De Wachter, the sole woman until now on the board, who is now leaving the post. Of the six remaining directors, six will be men.

    CD&V member of parliament Griet Smaers defended Vanackere’s nomination on the grounds of his suitability and experience, but said there were lessons to be learned from the controversy. Smaers is a supporter of quotas for women on the boards of financial regulators – of which the BNB is primus inter pares.

    “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s high time a legislative initiative was taken towards the creation of a quota rule for top functions like these,” she told the VRT’s Terzake current affairs programme. “I can see that it’s not happening naturally.”

    • Meanwhile Sander Loones, a member of the European Parliament, has been nominated by N-VA as the new minister of national defence, to replace party colleague Steven Vandeput, who now moves to become mayor of Hasselt. Loones, aged 39, will also be in charge of public administrations including the civil service. He has a degree in administrative law from Leuven university, and previously worked in the research department of the Office for Foreigners, which deals with refugees and asylum-seekers.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times