Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group

  • Hans Vijlbrief (l) in 2016 talking to Dutch state secretary of economic affairs Eric Wiebes (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The most senior official in the Dutch finance ministry is expected to be chosen as head of the Eurogroup Working Group on Friday (15 December).

Tuomas Saarenheimo, the only other candidate, dropped out of the race on Thursday, making it virtually certain that Hans Vijlbrief will lead the influential Brussels-based committee, which prepares the meetings of eurozone finance ministers, the Eurogroup.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Thomas Wieser (l) speaking to Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem in June 2015. Greek ex-minister Yanis Varoufakis said Wieser was sometimes even more powerful than Dijsselbloem (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The move will secure Dutch continued influence in discussions about the euro, after their former finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem leaves the post of Eurogroup president in January 2018.

Dutch media reported the news on Thursday, saying that Vijlbrief will officially be chosen via teleconference on Friday.

A source in the Council of the EU confirmed to EUobserver that there was "only one candidate left", while a Finnish source told this website that the Finnish candidate, Saarenheimo, permanent under-secretary at the Finnish ministry of finance, dropped out on Thursday.

"He withdrew his candidacy because there was more support for the Dutch candidate," the Finnish contact said.

The Eurogroup Working Group is made up of senior officials from euro area member states, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.

Outgoing Eurogroup Working Group president Thomas Wieser, an Austrian, had been in the post since January 2012.

The position is for two years, but can be extended.

'Most powerful man in Brussels'

Yanis Varoufakis, who was Greece's finance minister and Eurogroup member for seven months in 2015, described Wieser as "the true power broker within the eurozone".

Varoufakis wrote in his 2017 book Adults in the Room that Wieser was "the most powerful man in Brussels, far more so than Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, or Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and finance affairs … or even, on occassion, Dijsselbloem himself."

"At such times he seemed to run the whole show," Varoufakis wrote about Wieser in his political memoirs, in which he gave his view of the struggle between debt-ridden Greece and the troika of creditors.

He criticised the Eurogroup Working Group as "the shadowy crucible in which the troika forges its plans and policies".

Wieser had also been the man who gave press off-the-record briefings ahead of Eurogroup meetings.

Dijsselbloem for Vijlbrief

The support for Vijlbrief suggests that the Dutch government played it smart by not accepting an extended six-month mandate for Dijsselbloem, as proposed by France and Germany.

According to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, the Hague dropped Dijsselbloem so that they can focus their lobbying efforts on behalf of Vijlbrief – as securing both positions for such a relatively small member state would be unlikely.

The newspaper noted that to the chagrin of its Benelux partner Luxembourg, the Netherlands supported the Portuguese candidate to succeed Dijsselbloem, and not the Luxembourgish one.

According to UK newspaper the Financial Times last August, France initially also had a candidate for the Eurogroup Working Group.

Hans Vijlbrief, who holds a doctorate in economics, had been the most senior civil servant at the Dutch finance ministry since 2011. Before that he worked for a decade at the ministry of economic affairs, where he also had experience in the 1990s.

Centeno: Eurogroup picks Southern head

Portuguese finance minister was chosen by his eurozone colleagues with a 'very substantial majority' after he appeared to be the only one ticking the boxes.

Portuguese minister favourite in 'open' Eurogroup race

Mario Centeno has the backing of the Socialists who claim the post. But the Slovak and Latvian candidates could appeal to the supporters of fiscal discipline, while the Luxembourgish hopeful seems to be outdistanced.

Eurogroup closes Schaeuble era

Eurozone finance ministers bade farewell to their longest-serving and most influential colleague, while preparing to also replace its chairman at the end of the year.

MEPs to keep 27 UK seats after Brexit

The number of French MEPs will grow from 74 to 79, while Spanish MEPs will increase in number from 54 to 59. Italy, the Netherlands, and Ireland will also get more MEPs, but Germany is already at the maximum allowed.

MEPs may bar killer drones from EU research cash

EU defence fund is expected to hand out €500m to companies across the EU if they work together on 'defence products'. Under the current proposal, the development of weapons of mass destruction would not be excluded.

EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate

The president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, said the bank had high standards - but did not explain why an anti-fraud report on a loan to Volkswagen was being kept secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  3. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  5. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  7. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  9. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  10. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  11. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit

Latest News

  1. Lessons for EU from the Greek tragedy
  2. A new dynamic on the Macedonia name issue
  3. Berlusconi in Brussels on pre-election charm offensive
  4. ECJ should rule against Austrian online censorship lawsuit
  5. EU states loosen grip on tax havens
  6. Facebook promises privacy reboot ahead of new EU rules
  7. Europe is lacking tech leadership
  8. Spitzenkandidat system here to stay, MEPs warn capitals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  2. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  3. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  4. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  5. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  6. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  7. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  8. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  9. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  11. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  12. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City