Wednesday

11th Dec 2019

Dutch elections raise questions on Eurogroup's chair

  • Would Dijsselbloem remain Eurogroup president after losing his job as Ducth finance minister? (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

After his Labour party's substantial defeat in Wednesday's Dutch elections, Jeroen Dijsselbloem could stand to lose his finance minister portfolio but stay on as president of the Eurogroup.

The issue may be raised at Monday's meeting (20 March) of the eurozone finance ministers. EU officials and ministers are suggesting nobody would push Dijsselbloem out, at least for now.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Slovakia's Peter Kasimir would probably be a candidate if Dijsselbloem was to quit. (Photo: Council of the EU)

Negotiations for the next Dutch government have not started and could take weeks, or months, as a multi-party coalition will have to be found.

At least four parties or more are needed to form a majority coalition of 76 seats.

While it seems politically feasible to make a core of centre-right Liberals, together with the centre-right Christian-Democrats and the centrist pro-EU D66 party – 71 of 150 seats, the real challenge is finding a party to fill the gap.

The only scenario in which Dijsselbloem, elected as an MP, would return as finance minister would be in a grand coalition of the Liberals, Christian-Democrats, D66, and Labour.

But with only 9 seats, down from 29 in the outgoing parliament, the Labour Party will not be the first partner the Liberals will try to find. And, after 4.5 years in coalition with the Liberals that ended in a resounding defeat, Labour might prefer reinventing itself in opposition.

As long as a government is not formed, an EU official pointed out, "Dijsselbloem stays as caretaker minister".

Dijsselbloem has been finance minister since 2012. He was elected Eurogroup president in 2013 and renewed in July 2015. His 2.5-year mandate ends in January 2018.

According to the rules of the Eurogroup, an informal EU body, "a candidate needs to be minister of finance", the EU official said, suggesting that the principle would not apply to Dijsselbloem, who is already in place.

"That has no impact on the continued presidency of Jeroen Dijsselbloem," the official added.

Spanish finance minister Luis de Guindos was the candidate against Dijsselbloem in 2015. He declined to say on Thursday whether he would try to run for the post again.

"We have a president of the Eurogroup and he is the Dutch minister of finance, I will not anticipate events," De Guindos told journalists in Madrid.

He insisted that talks of Dijsselbloem leaving his position were "speculation", which he would not entertain "for the moment".

'Global balance'

A member of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), De Guindos would, however, face difficulties becoming Eurogroup president.

After the election of EPP's Antonio Tajani as European Parliament president to succeed Martin Schulz, the Eurogroup presidency is the last top EU post held by the Party of European Socialists (PES), with the head of the EU diplomacy held by Federica Mogherini.

"There is a global balance, in which one element of the puzzle has changed [political] colour," French finance minister Michel Sapin noted after the parliament election in January.

He said that the new post held by the EPP - along with the European Commission and Council presidency - "tilted the sharing of responsibilities on one side" and that it would be "an important element" to take into account when choosing a new Eurogroup chair.

A serious contender hailing from the PES would be Slovakia's Peter Kazimir.

In January, when asked about the possibility that Dijsselbloem might not remain finance minister after the Dutch election, Kazimir quipped: "Jeroen the first is still alive. It's not polite to raise the issue."

'Continuity and stability'

Kazimir said that Dijsselbloem was doing "an excellent job inside and outside" and that "he should stay, no matter the Dutch election outcome".

"We need continuity and stability," he added.

But sources said that if Dijsselbloem was to quit, Kazimir would probably be a candidate. Although a Socialist, he is one of the most hawkish ministers on the Greek crisis and would be acceptable to his right-wing colleagues.

With the Greek bailout still under way and currently stuck in difficult negotiations, as well as upcoming elections in France and Germany - the eurozone's two main countries - coming this spring and autumn, it is unlikely that Dijsselbloem's colleagues will ask him to leave before the end of his mandate.

Ultimately, the decision could be Dijsselbloem's, once he leaves his ministry for good.

Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock

Athens agreed on budget cuts worth up to €3.6 billion and extracted some concessions from creditors, but the IMF warned the package might not be enough.

Eurozone chief in 'drinks and women' row

[Updated] The Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem faces calls for resignation after saying that crisis-hit countries in southern Europe spent "money on drinks and women" before being helped by others.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs protest against PM Babis over EU subsidy 'fraud'
  2. EU disbursed €2.7bn for Turkey refugees
  3. UK ports set to host EU border checks for Northern Ireland
  4. EU puts tech giants in crosshairs
  5. Faroe Islands under pressure to chose Huawei
  6. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  7. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  8. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us