21st Mar 2018

Dijsselbloem to replace Juncker as Eurogroup chief

Jeroen Dijsselbloem is poised to become the new chair of the Eurogroup, after outgoing chairman Jean-Claude Juncker gave tacit confirmation the Dutch finance minister would replace him.

Speaking on Wednesday (10 January) in the European Parliament's economic affairs committee in his final hearing with MEPs as chair of the 17-member group, Juncker commented: "I will speak to my successor in a Benelux language."

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Juncker, who also serves as Luxembourg's Prime Minister, will stand down later this month after holding the post since the Eurogroup was created in 2005.

Dijsselbloem is expected to be named as his successor when eurozone finance ministers meet next on 21 January. The post is not full-time and Dijsselbloem will retain his ministerial position, with Juncker admitting that the role "should be full-time, but this view is not shared by others."

With Dijsselbloem representing one of the few remaining EU countries with a AAA credit rating as well as the Dutch Labour party, the move should find favour with Germany's conservative leader Angela Merkel and with Francois Hollande, the Socialist President of France.

He has been finance minister only since November, however.

Meanwhile, Juncker also hinted that the first chief supervisor of the eurozone banking union would be a woman, telling MEPs that he is "in favour of a female head of the SSM [Single Supervisory Mechanism], she will be French and it will be done."

he refused to give any more details when pressed by reporters.

But French media on Wednesday said that Bank of France official Danielle Nouy is in line for the job.

Nouy, a career bank regulator, is currently the secretary general of the French Prudential Control Authority.

The SSM will be run under the auspices of the European Central Bank (ECB), with governments expected to finalise the first pillar of banking union legislation in the coming weeks.

The appointment would please MEPs, who have been vocal in demanding more women to top banking jobs. In October, they tried to block the nomination of Luxembourg central bank governor Yves Mersch to the ECB's executive board in protest at the lack of women on the bank's top table.

Quizzed about his own future, Juncker - who was touted as a possible candidate for European Commission President in 2004 and for European Council President in 2009 - said that he would seek re-election as his country's Prime Minister, a post he has held since 1995.

He added that while "the worst probably is over" in the euro crisis, "we have some difficult years in front of us and solving the problems will require a good deal of political courage."

He said international lenders to bailout countries - the commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund - should create incentives for countries which impose their austerity measures.

"I would have preferred us to come up with a system that would compensate them for the effort we asked them to make ... as there's no reward at the moment," he noted.

He also took a swipe at the northern European countries' reputation for solvency.

Juncker said they should "look at their records for the previous ten years," adding: "Countries of the north are not more virtuous than countries of the south."

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