Shake-up of ECB voting approved

EU political leaders yesterday endorsed a plan by the European Central Bank to modernise its interest rate voting procedures, despite reservations from some smaller members.

Governors of individual countries' central banks will lose their automatic right to vote in all rate decisions ahead of 2004's enlargement of the EU.

Instead the voting places on the ECB's monetary policy body will be rotated between the member states of the European single currency.

Under the plan, representatives of the five biggest economies, including Germany and France, will share four votes with the rest divided into two groups sharing 11 votes. The six executive board members will keep a permanent voting right.

Finland and the Netherlands, which as smaller states would get a vote relatively infrequently, had raised objections to the plan, which would take effect after at least four more states join the 12-member eurozone. However, at the end of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, the two countries agreed to drop their objections.

A spokesman for the UK Treasury, which has been pushing for reform, said the voting procedure was not a major issue. "We have no difficulty with this," he said.

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