Ireland's Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Spanish counterpart Nadia Calvino confirmed their candidacies to head the influential Eurogroup of 19 euro zone finance ministers on Thursday, with Brussels insiders tipping the Spaniard to win.
Candidacies for the new Eurogroup chair, who will help shape economic recovery policies after the coronavirus crisis, must be submitted by the end of Thursday ahead of a July 9 vote.
Calvino, 51, is a technocrat, economist and former head of the European Commission's community budget who also serves as a deputy prime minister in Spain's minority left-wing coalition.
She promised to seek prosperity for all Europeans.
"It would be an honor for the Spanish government, and for me as its president, if Nadia Calvino were to take on the Presidency," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted. "For the first time, Spain and a woman would lead this institution."
Donohoe, 45, touted his experience and Ireland's role as a "bridge builder."
"If elected, I will work to chart a common way forward on building the European recovery, strengthening the euro zone economy, and promoting sustainable and inclusive growth for member states and their citizens," he said.
Donohoe's candidacy could be complicated by Friday's vote by his Fine Gael and two other Irish parties on a new government deal following an inconclusive February election. A 'no' vote by either party could trigger new elections.
The Eurogroup post has been vacant since Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno announced earlier in June that he would not seek a second 2-1/2 year term.
Brussels officials said the Spaniard was favorite.
"Calvino is highly competent ... It makes sense to have the Eurogroup chair come from the south ... Last but not least, she is a woman, and it's about time to break also this glass ceiling," said one senior EU official.
"She is a good candidate, she is inventive and knows very well how to get to a deal," added another.
Filling the position fits into a broader round of negotiations for major European Union posts aiming to balance political leanings and regions.
Madrid has long wanted to chair the Eurogroup, but also has designs on leadership of the World Trade Organisation for Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
The Eurogroup's leader plays a crucial role in hammering out compromises on regional policies and chairs the board of the euro zone bailout fund.
An independent with moderate social democratic views, Calvino has been a counterweight in Sanchez's coalition to the hard-left Unidas Podemos. (Reuters)