Friday

19th Oct 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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive

Voters in Germany's largest state hived off to the left and right of the ruling conservatives in Sunday's elections - posing questions for Merkel's authority.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us