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BRUSSELS, Nov 22 AFP

November 23 2012, 2:41PM

EU leaders have named Luxembourg central bank chief Yves Mersch to a top European Central Bank post after his nomination was held up for months by objections that there were no women candidates for the job.

The decision, taken at the opening of a two-day European Union budget summit on Friday, came despite a bitter political row over the lack of women in senior European positions and adds Mersch to the ECB's all-male executive board.

Eurozone finance ministers named Mersch in July to replace Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo of Spain but Mersch was fiercely opposed by many in the European parliament who objected that his appointment would result in an all-male ECB top management until 2018.

"The ECB now has a member on its highest board without a democratically established mandate," said Sharon Bowles, chair of the European parliament economic and monetary affairs committee.

"Today the EU's heads of state have sent a clear signal of what their idea of a democratic process is: a tool to be upheld in form and discarded when its truths are inconvenient."

The situation became more complicated earlier this month when Spain blocked the appointment, apparently seizing an opportunity to regain influence at the top of the eurozone's central bank.

Mersch had been named in preference to a male Spanish candidate to replace Gonzalez-Paramo, with Madrid said to be unhappy at what it saw as a "non-transparent" appointment.

While parliament was consulted on Mersch's nomination, it is EU leaders who have the final say on the post which was settled by a majority vote, meaning Spain could not block Mersch's appointment alone.

The ECB top management comprises a six-member executive board and the central bank governors of the 17 member states.

The last woman on the ECB board was Austrian Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell between 1998 and 2011 who was replaced by Peter Praet of Belgium in preference to Slovakian Elena Kohutikova.