Dutch vote puts ques­tion mark over Greek neme­sis, Eurogroup chief Di­js­sel­bloem

Kathimerini English - - Focus -

Jeroen Di­js­sel­bloem may have to stand down as pres­i­dent of the Eurogroup which co­or­di­nates pol­icy in the euro­zone if he can­not re­tain his role as Dutch fi­nance min­is­ter in a new coali­tion af­ter his party was routed in Wed­nes­day’s elec­tion.

The La­bor Party crashed from sec­ond to sev­enth place in pre­lim­i­nary re­sults, los­ing more than three-quar­ters of its seats and mak­ing it hard for vic­to­ri­ous lib­eral Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte to re­tain Di­js­sel­bloem in such a se­nior cabi­net post, even though he has made clear his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his work. Nei­ther man com­mented on the matter di­rectly yes­ter­day.

Di­js­sel­bloem is due to rep­re­sent the Eurogroup at a G20 meet­ing in Ger­many to­day and to chair the monthly meet­ing of the 19 euro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters in Brus­sels on Mon­day.

While other euro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters may seek his role, there is a lack of ob­vi­ous con­tenders, par­tic­u­larly given that many gov­ern­ments will re­sist ap­point­ing a politi­cian from the right be­cause con­ser­va­tives hold most other top EU jobs.

It is just pos­si­ble Di­js­sel­bloem might re­tain his Dutch port­fo­lio. There has also been spec­u­la­tion that the Eurogroup could keep him on as chair­man even if he loses his na­tional job – although some se­nior of­fi­cials say that is most un­likely.

Di­js­sel­bloem, whose sec­ond 30month term ends in Jan­uary, has been pop­u­lar with fel­low min­is­ters, bal­anc­ing a back­ground on the left with sup­port from con­ser­va­tive Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble, who wields Ger­many’s power on the Eurogroup and in­sists on strict terms for Greece and other states awarded bailout loans.

The Dutch­man will re­main in of­fice for weeks, and pos­si­bly months, as Rutte strug­gles to put to­gether a new coali­tion af­ter Wed­nes­day’s elec­tion. Rutte’s own party lost seats and the anti-im­mi­gra­tion party of Geert Wilders fin­ished in sec­ond place.

Eurogroup rules do not stip­u­late that its pres­i­dent must be a serv­ing fi­nance min­is­ter. But se­nior euro­zone of­fi­cials have said lately that they do not be­lieve fel­low min­is­ters would keep Di­js­sel­bloem on if he lost his main job in The Hague.

In the longer term, there has been talk of mak­ing the po­si­tion a full­time one, with its own staff. But that is not yet agreed.

Party pol­i­tics and a quest for in­flu­ence by gov­ern­ments will play a role in any choice of a re­place­ment for Di­js­sel­bloem.

The Eurogroup chair is one of five key pres­i­den­cies of EU in­sti­tu­tions gov­ern­ing the euro cur­rency. That of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank is held by in­de­pen­dent Mario Draghi.

Fol­low­ing a shift at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Jan­uary and the reap­point­ment last week of Don­ald Tusk at the Euro­pean Coun­cil of na­tional lead­ers, all three oth­ers, in­clud­ing the ex­ec­u­tive Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, are held by the cen­ter-right.

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