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German Finance Minister to grill Vestager on European Investment Bank bid

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“Sound banking” must be the top priority for the European Investment Bank (EIB), German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Thursday (7 September), the same day that Margrethe Vestager, a contender for the bank’s top job, said she wants the EIB to take more risks.

European Commission Vice President Vestager has announced her bid for the EIB presidency, telling the FT on Thursday that the bank must be “more risk-taking” in the face of climate change and the Ukraine war.

But Lindner, representing one of the three biggest shareholders of the bank, stressed that “sound banking” must remain the top priority for the EIB.

“The triple-A rating of the European Investment Bank is of paramount importance for it to have favourable financing conditions,” he told journalists on Thursday.

While the EIB should play a role in the financing of Ukraine’s reconstruction, as well as climate damage and mitigation, there should not be an “overstretching” of the bank’s role, Lindner warned. “The basis is always sound banking,” he added.

On Friday, Lindner will meet Vestager to discuss her candidacy – as he did with other candidates, too. He met with Italy’s candidate Daniele Franco on Thursday and Spain’s Nadia Calvi?o last week.

“We are spoilt for choice because they are all outstanding personalities,” Lindner said.

On Thursday morning, Vestager told the FT that she thinks she has a “fair chance” of receiving the top job, but that it was “not a given”.

“I want the EIB to be more risk-taking so I need to show that I’m willing to take a risk not knowing if I will get it or not,” she said.

The EIB, which lends money to private and public institutions, should play an “increasingly strategic” role in the face of necessary investments into the green transition, Vestager added.

Asked by EURACTIV at a press conference on whether his comment was at odds with Vestager’s statement, Lindner said that he had “never seen Ms Vestager as wanting to take irresponsible risks”.

“I believe that everyone is aware that triple-A is simply necessary for the European Investment Bank,” he added.

Germany was still in the process of “forming our opinion” on who should run the bank, Lindner said, adding that “in the very near future, we will decide on a candidate who we believe will show the best way forward for the Bank as a whole.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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