Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Dutch finance minister mooted for Eurogroup post

  • Jeroen Dijsselbloem may become the next Mr Euro (Photo: Partij van de Arbeid/Willem Pekel)

Little over a month in office, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem may become the next Eurogroup chief to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker, as the more experienced French and German finance ministers block each other out.

A German government spokesman on Monday (17 December) did not deny reports in German media that Dijsselbloem's name was floated by EU leaders at a summit in Brussels last week.

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"This was not on the official agenda. It is possible that such talks were held on corridors," Steffen Seibert said during a press conference. He added the appointment is a matter for finance ministers to decide among their own and that there is still time next month, as Juncker has indicated he would step down early next year.

A senior EU official also told this website that consultations will "really" take place only in January.

"We'll see then [about Dijsselbloem]," the source added.

If he stays in the race by then, Dijsselbloem, a Social-Democrat who was appointed finance minister in early November, may be more palatable to France than Germany's hawkish minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. The German minister was considered a frontrunner in June, but his bid was blocked by the newly elected Socialist administration in Paris, as Francois Hollande had won the presidency on an anti-austerity ticket.

In the end, Juncker agreed to stay on for six more months to give more time to find a successor.

According to his official CV, the 46-year old Dutchman has studied agro-economics and has held party and government positions in the fields of agriculture, environment and education.

For his part, French finance minister Pierre Moscovici, himself mooted as possible candidate, on Monday said there was "no agreement" yet on the Juncker successor.

Meanwhile, a rumoured Franco-German deal for Moscovici to take over the first mandate followed by a German finance minister, whomever he may be after general elections in September, has not materialised.

After blocking Schaeuble in the summer, Paris cannot count on Berlin to support its minister. Smaller countries also feel uneasy about Eurogroup chiefs from the two largest economies in the euro area.

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, whose name was also on the table earlier this year when there was a first attempt to find a successor for Juncker, told journalists on Thursday in the margins of the EU summit that Dijsselbloem's name was "mentioned" and that in his opinion, the Dutchman is "a good man" who would defend the interests of northern countries.

Asked about it on Friday in the Hague, Dijsselbloem told Dutch media he would "think about it" if offered the job and that it would not be too much to handle for a mere finance minister.

Chairing the Eurogroup means organising conference calls or meetings - often several times a month - in recent times dealing with the bailouts of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus.

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