Dutchman gets backing to be next Eurogroup chief

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 18, 2013 15:45 hrs

The outgoing chairman of the Eurogroup, the regular meetings of the 17 eurozone finance ministers, endorsed Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday as a "good" candidate to take over his job on Monday.

On top of the backing from Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Germany too had warm words for Dijsselbloem (DIE-sell-bloom), further building expectations that he will be given the job.

The Eurogroup chairman has a key role in coordinating economic and financial policies among the 17 EU countries that share the euro as well as with the other executive bodies in Brussels.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that Dijsselbloem, if confirmed, would continue to support the focus on austerity measures and economic reforms as a way for Europe to solve its financial crisis.

He said Dijsselbloem would be "strict" with nations over their finances: "(He) doesn't like deficits."

Netherlands has over the past three years mostly sided with Germany and other northern European states in pushing for tough rules and conditions in exchange for bailouts for financially weaker countries, mostly in the south.

Rutte said the Dutch government "does not support permanent money streams from northern to southern Europe. We want to help southern Europe temporarily so long as southern Europe reforms and sticks to agreements."

"That is the tradition he comes from and that is the tradition he would operate in as chairman of the Eurogroup," Rutte said of Dijsselbloem.

Juncker met with Dijsselbloem, who only became Dutch finance minister late last year, in Luxembourg on Friday to give his expected successor tips and advice on how to run the group.

"The Dutch finance minister has presented his candidacy, which is a good one," said Juncker.

In Berlin, government spokeswoman Marianne Kothe said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has made it clear he thinks Dijsselbloem, a Labor Party politician, is a very competent candidate.

The Netherlands' AAA credit rating and regular support for German positions made the Dutch candidate a logical choice for Berlin.

Juncker, who has chaired the Eurogroup since 2005, said last year that he wants to step down. Dijsselbloem is the only established candidate for the job and the appointment is expected to be confirmed during the monthly Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers on Monday.

Dijsselbloem, 46, called himself "a newcomer in this financial world," and his lack of experience could count against him. He was almost totally unknown outside political circles before his appointment in the Netherlands last fall.

Not everyone is pleased with Dijsselbloem's candidacy. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici criticized him for not having publicly expressed any "vision" for economic and fiscal policies in the euro area.

Dijsselbloem said he would soon do so.

"Well, I hope you will allow me to present my priorities Monday to my colleagues," he told reporters on Friday. "That is the right order and respectful to my colleagues."


Juergen Baetz contributed from Berlin, Toby Sterling from Amsterdam, Mike Corder from The Hague.

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