Nadia Calviño has an excellent reputation in Brussels thanks to her work in the European Commission’s services from 2006 to 2018, and then as head of Spain’s ministry of the economy. Photo: Shutterstock

Nadia Calviño has an excellent reputation in Brussels thanks to her work in the European Commission’s services from 2006 to 2018, and then as head of Spain’s ministry of the economy. Photo: Shutterstock

On 8 December, the Ecofin Council agreed on Werner Hoyer’s successor as the head of the European Investment Bank. Spain’s minister for economic affairs, Nadia Calviño, will become the first woman to hold this post. Here’s a look back at a career that has oscillated between Madrid and Brussels.

Nadia María Calviño Santamaría was born on 3 October 1968 in A Coruña and obtained a law degree from Madrid’s Complutense University. After teaching economic policy and financial systems at the university for a number of years, she joined the mministry of the economy and finance in 1994. Specialising in the fight against monopolies, she was appointed director general of competition in 2004.

In 2006, Calviño joined the European Commission under Dutch politician Neelie Kroes, who served as European Commissioner for competition in the Barroso I Commission (between 2004 and 2010) then as vice-president of the European Commission and European Commissioner for the digital agenda in the Barroso II Commission (between 2010 and 2014).

Calviño then became the institution’s youngest deputy director general, still in charge of competition, but now based in Brussels. In 2014, she was appointed director general of the EU commission’s budget. With Michel Barnier, she worked in particular on the banking union projects and the single resolution mechanism.

She is now the Spanish civil servant with the highest responsibilities within the institution.

The return of a European in Madrid

This did not stop Pedro Sánchez, the new Socialist prime minister, from calling her back to Madrid in June to become minister for the economy. Although Calviño is close to the Socialist Party, she is not a member. Her profile, which is more technical than political, as well as her Europhile nature are seen as a message of rigour and stability sent to the European authorities by Sánchez, who came to power alongside the radical left.

Calviño rose through the ranks of the government, becoming one of its four vice-presidents in 2020. She is credited with the resilience of the Spanish economy during the covid crisis and the inflationary surge that followed, amplified by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In October, Spain raised its growth forecasts, among the highest in Europe, to 2.4% in 2023--compared with 2.1% initially forecast--and 2% for 2024. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is even talking about growth of 2.5% for 2023, supported by the European recovery plan. The funds allocated to Spain under this plan amount to a total of €140bn between now and 2026, of which €70bn is non-repayable.

Her international image is good. But not good enough as to enable her to land a position of responsibility outside Spain. In 2019, she withdrew from the race to head the IMF and in 2020, having been tipped as the favourite for the presidency of the Eurogroup, she lost out to Irishman Pascal Donohoe. In 2021, however, she became chair of the IMF’s financial committee.

Busy agenda at the head of the EIB

As the head of the EIB, she succeeds Pietro Campili (Italy, February 1958 to May 1959), Paride Formentini (Italy, June 1959 to September 1970), Yves Le Portz (France, September 1970 to July 1984), Ernst-Günther Bröder (Germany, August 1984 to March 1993), Brian Unwin (United Kingdom, April 1993 to December 1999), Philippe Maystadt (Belgium, January 2000 to December 2011) and Werner Hoyer (Germany), who has held the post since January 2012.

On her agenda for the coming months: financing the reconstruction of Ukraine and crucial investments in the fight against climate change. She will also have to take into account the desire of some member states to see the EIB play a role in new areas in the future, such as new technologies for nuclear power generation, the extraction of ‘clean’ minerals, and even the defence industry. All this against a backdrop of high interest rates and increasing armed conflict.

This article was first published in French on . It has been translated and edited for Delano.