National Bank governor can stay on for now, despite political gridlock
The governor of the National Bank of Belgium (NBB), Pierre Wunsch, can temporarily continue his mandate pending a formal decision by the federal government, the NBB's board of regents decided on Monday. For some time it looked as if Belgium's central bank would be without a governor at the beginning of the year, as Wunsch's mandate had not yet been renewed due to political tensions.
The current governor's mandate expired on 1 January. Renewal was supposed to be a formality, but the process stalled when the government failed to agree on a number of issues at its last meeting before the Christmas break. With elections just six months away, the coalition parties are unwilling to compromise.
In order to ensure continuity, the federal government has now written to the National Bank asking it to keep Wunsch in office "on an exceptional basis" and "for a short period". The NBB's board of regents finally decided to grant the request, considering that "a provisional measure is necessary to maintain the continuity and operational functioning of the Bank".
The NBB therefore "responded positively to the request (...) and asked Mr Wunsch to continue his duties as governor on a temporary basis until the government takes a formal decision on the mandate". In its letter, the government promised that the decision on Wunsch's reappointment would be taken "soon".
However, the NBB also expressed "deep regret" that the federal government had not extended the governor's mandate on time.
On 22 December, the De Croo government discussed the issue in what was supposed to be the last cabinet meeting of the year. The new mandate for Wunsch is not controversial in itself, but the decision is linked to other nominations for several high-level positions in the federal administration.
Decision-making in the seven-party coalition has never been easy, but with election fever already running high, it now seems almost impossible. As a result, several files are still awaiting decisions.
National Bank (NBB) governor Pierre Wunsch © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE