A meeting this week between the US candidate to head the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, and EU ministers is set to be low key but various sources agree that the European Union wants a strengthened voice in the world body.
Will Wolfowitz reach out to Europe?
The informal meeting due to be held in Brussels by the end of the week between Wolfowitz and European governors of the World Bank, who in general are finance ministers, is to be off-limits to the press, a source close to the current Luxembourg presidency of European Union
ministerial meetings said. Luxembourg's Premier Jean-Claude Juncker will host the meeting, according to Reuters news service.
One European source said that the meeting might be held on Wednesday afternoon before a vote of all administrators of the World Bank to be held in Washington on Thursday.
Europe resigned to Wolfowitz
Bush and Schröder during the February meeting in Mainz
At an EU summit here a week ago, European leaders signaled that they were resigned to the nomination of Wolfowitz by Washington to head the World Bank, which concentrates on long-term development projects, support and advice for developing countries. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has reportedly told US President George W. Bush that his country will not oppose Wolfowitz's nomination.
There has been widespread criticism of the nomination because Wolfowitz, who is currently US deputy secretary for defense, was one of the main people behind the war in Iraq.
However, the Europeans could make use of the meeting with this so-called "neo-conservative" figure to obtain increased representation within the World Bank.
IMF as model?
The Financial Times reported on Monday that European finance ministers wanted a "counterweight" to Wolfowitz and that "France wants a strong new European deputy, mirroring the division of jobs at the International Monetary Fund."
The newspaper said that European finance ministers had discussed at their meeting last weekend "the need for a similar arrangement at the bank."
IMF headquarters in Washington
Traditionally, Europe chooses the managing director of the IMF and the United States appoints the head of the World Bank. The informal rule has never been broken since the two institutions were set up in the wake of World War II. While the US holds 16 percent of shares and votes in the World Bank, Europe has 30 percent.
A European deputy?
Germany reportedly took the view that Wolfowitz could himself appoint a European to head his team but that Britain was skeptical about any deal that excluded developing countries.
Wolfowitz has appeared receptive to this line of thinking. He told The Washington Post on Sunday that that he did not see a problem in appointing a European to an important position within the bank.
Last week Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders also suggested that one of the posts of vice president at the bank be filled by a European.