22nd Mar 2018

Dijsselbloem to chair Eurogroup despite Spanish opposition

  • Dijsselbloem has been a finance minister since November (Photo: Partij van de Arbeid/Willem Pekel)

Jeroen Dijisselbloem has been appointed chair of the 17-member Eurogroup after eurozone finance ministers rubber-stamped his appointment in Brussels.

At a meeting on Monday (21 January) the Dutch finance minister was backed to replace veteran Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg Prime Minister who has held the job since its creation in 2005.

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.

However, the appointment attracted some unexpected controversy after his Spanish counterpart Luis de Guindos, refused to endorse Djisselbloem.

The Spanish delegation refused to say why, but it is widely believed to reflect fears that he will be too pro-austerity for Spanish taste due to his position in a Liberal-led Dutch government.

Quizzed by reporters after the the meeting, Djisselbloem confirmed that his election had "not been unanimous," although he insisted that de Guindos had given assurances that he would work with him "in a very professional and positive way".

That said, the Spanish move came as a shock to EU officials, with some concerned that a political wedge is being driven between the so-called "virtuous" northern countries and the crisis-hit Mediterranean states.

Meanwhile, Djisselbloem said that his first task in the Eurogroup would be to drive a deal on the proposals for a banking union in the eurozone.

In a remark for the benefit of journalists now accustomed to Eurogroup meetings running later and later each time, he remarked that "hopefully the eurozone will allow us to meet at normal hours and not until very early in the morning."

Turning to Juncker, Djisselbloem told reporters that the Luxembourg leader had been "an outstanding President, making far reaching decisions in a very difficult time."

In his parting statement, a visibly relaxed Juncker told reporters that he had "come to love and admire Europe all the more" in his Eurogroup work.

He also offered fulsome praise for crisis-hit Greece, Ireland and Portugal, commenting that he had "every admiration for what Greece has achieved" and offering the same support to Ireland and Portugal, which, he hoped, would be "recompensed for their efforts."

The veteran negotiator, who has also served as his country's prime minister since 1995, reiterated his plans to go back to national politics and try for another term in government.

Earlier, Dijsselbloem, Klaus Regling (the head of the EU's bailout fund, the ESM) and economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn led praise for Juncker's time in office, with Regling describing him as "one of the true great Europeans of our time" and with Rehn offering thanks for his "tireless work on the stability of the eurozone through many long years and long nights."

For his part, Juncker welcomed Djisselbloem into the job, emphasising his conviction that the Dutchman "embodies all the qualities that will allow him to step elegantly into this function."

In business matters, Regling confirmed that €7.2 billion of bonds would be transferred to recapitalize Greek banks along with €2 billion in cash, with both decisions to be approved by the ESM board next week.

The EU bailout fund will also disperse €4.8 billion to Portugal in early February, he added.

Ministers confirmed that agreement on a €17 billion rescue plan for Cyprus would be delayed until after the country's presidential elections in March, with Juncker noting that "Cyprus' short-term funding needs are covered."

EU officials also said that emergency plans to stabilise the Spanish banking system are on track.

Regling noted that a further €1.8 billion would be paid to Spanish banks, adding that the overall rescue package was expected to be €41 billion, far below the €100 billion cost projected in autumn last year.

Juncker re-opens race for Eurogroup chief

Eurogroup chief Juncker has opened the race for his succession, with French finance minister Moscovici or Austrian leader Faymann seen as possible candidates.


Selmayr case symptomatic, says EU novel author

The controversy over the new EU Commission top civil servant is revealing of what is wrong with EU institutions and how they are blocked by national governments, says award-winning Austrian novelist Robert Menasse.


The populists may have won, but Italy won't leave the euro

The situation as Rome tries to form a government is turbulent and unpredictable. However, the most extreme eurosceptic policies floated during the election campaign are unlikely to happen - not least due to the precarious state of the Italian banks.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  2. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  3. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  4. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  5. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  6. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU
  7. EU to have 'immediate' trade talks with Trump
  8. Separatist activist renounces Catalonia leadership candidacy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections