Dutch minister to head eurogroup

Dutch minister to head eurogroup

BRUSSELS - The Associated Press
Dutch minister to head eurogroup

New President-elect of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem (L) looks at EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn (R) as he sits next to the resigning Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker. AP Photo

The new Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has been chosen as the new head of the group of euro finance ministers, , which would give him one of the top jobs in the eurozone’s battle to end its financial crisis.

Among his first challenges, besides overly high debt and unemployment levels in several of the bloc’s nations will be to help negotiate a bailout for Greek Cyprus that has been delayed again amid disagreement on its conditions.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, 46, had broad support ahead of a finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels, where the new eurozone chairman was to be elected. “Restoring further trust in the euro and building economic prospective for the countries, that’s the main task at hand,” he said upon his arrival. “I think we have to work on growth and new jobs and at the same time we have to balance our budgets,” he added.

Dijsselbloem (DIE-sell-bloom) served in the Dutch parliament as a member of the center-left Labor party for most of the past decade and became finance minister only in November. His candidacy came as a surprise because of his lack of experience, but he emerged as the compromise candidate among Europe’s main political groups and between economically stronger and weaker nations.

German’s candidate

The Netherlands’ top-notch AAA credit rating and longstanding support for German positions on the need for budget discipline, free trade and fighting inflation made a Dutch candidate a palatable choice for Berlin’s center-right government. Dijsselbloem’s affiliation with the Labor Party, meanwhile, made him an acceptable choice for France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande.

“He’s the candidate, he’s the only one, so obviously he’s the best,” French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said. The ministers will have an “open and demanding” discussion during which Dijsselbloem will have to lay out how he plans to lead the eurogroup and how he wants to reconcile policies promoting growth and the necessity of consolidating the budgets, Moscovici added.

Outgoing Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also prime minister of Luxembourg, has over the past three years been at the heart of efforts to avoid a breakup of the euro, a currency used by 330 million people. He has weathered all-night meetings and wee-hour press conferences with global markets hanging on his every word.J uncker, who has held the post for eight years, said Jan. 21 he was relieved to step down.