Emmanuel Macron brings Sylvie Goulard back into fold with central bank job

Sylvie Goulard, who stepped down as French defence minister in June, is to be appointed deputy governor of France’s central bank — a low-profile return to the fold seen as a way to position the close ally of Emmanuel Macron for a senior EU job.

Ms Goulard, a former MEP, resigned only a month after being appointed to the French president’s first cabinet, citing an investigation into alleged misuse of payments for assistants in the European Parliament at her centrist Modem party. Her move prompted two other resignations from Mr Macron’s government, including François Bayrou, the Modem leader.

The appointment to Banque de France is to be confirmed by Mr Macron on Wednesday during a ministerial meeting, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. Ms Goulard will replace Anne Le Laurier, who retired this month as one of two deputies reporting to François Villeroy de Galhau, the governor and another ally of Mr Macron. Banque de France declined to comment.

The move reflects Mr Macron’s regard for Ms Goulard despite her legal woes. An adviser to Romano Prodi, the former European Commission chief, said Ms Goulard had advised Mr Macron on EU affairs during his successful presidential campaign. A person close to the government said the move could be designed to position Ms Goulard as a candidate for a position at the European Central Bank or as a commissioner in the next round of senior EU appointments.

Ms Goulard’s nomination departs from a long tradition of appointing technocrats as central bankers in France. Other countries, including the UK, have tended to choose central bank officials with more diverse backgrounds. In the US, Jay Powell, a lawyer by training, is the first non-economist to become chairman of the Federal Reserve in four decades.

Critics, including some officials in Frankfurt, say that Ms Goulard’s appointment is mostly political and that she lacks the monetary policy expertise required for the job, which involves attending technical G7 and G20 meetings. Others, including French government aides, note she acquired a deep knowledge of financial supervision and the banking union during her time in Brussels.

Since the ECB was founded in 1998, there have been only six months in which there has not been a French member of the bank’s six-strong executive team. Benoît Cœuré, the French incumbent, is set to leave the ECB in January 2020, when his eight-year term expires.

If Ms Goulard were to make it to the board of the ECB, it would also help address a longstanding shortage of women in key positions at the bank. At present, just two of the 25 policymakers on the bank’s governing council are women.

The European Parliament is pressing for a shortlist that includes female candidates for the vice-presidency, which falls vacant in May.