Former Eurogroup president and Dutch Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has ruled out a return to politics as a member of the progressive platform set up by French President Emmanuel Macron, although he supports the movement.
Speaking on the margins of a European Banking Federation conference on Thursday (27 September), Dijsselbloem told EURACTIV.com how the French leader told him about his plans to launch En Marche! back in 2016.
“I asked him: Can non-French people also join? And he said ‘of course, go to the website’”.
Dijsselbloem confirmed he is a sympathiser of EM. But once Macron turned the movement into a political party, the former Eurogroup chief said he did not become a member.
Macron is looking for likeminded pro-European and progressive politicians to join his platform.
Last June, EM and Ciudadanos, Spain’s liberal party led by Albert Rivera, joined forces and set up a platform to attract similar political movements in the run-up to the European elections in May 2019.
But Dijsselbloem is not planning to revive his political career under a new umbrella, following the worst results registered by his own party, the Labour party (PvDA), during the Dutch elections held in May 2017.
He said he has “no plans at all” to return to politics. “Maybe in my next life”, he said.
Dijsselbloem is currently promoting his memoirs at the Eurogroup’s helm during the crisis years.
His straight-talk and insights are still well regarded by some. Speaking to bankers on Tuesday he said “banks are too fat”, with too many groups and branches in Europe.
He also criticised the overprotection offered by national politicians to ailing banks. And he defended controversial ideas such as a mechanism to restructure sovereign debt.
However, he remains a divisive figure in Europe.
While he was Eurogroup president, he said that Southern countries had spent all their money “on drinks and women” during the crisis and then asked for help.
Sources close to Macron’s platform also doubted he could bring added value to the initiative given his party’s poor recent results.
The same sources added that there has been no contact with him and they were not planning to take advantage of Dijsselbloem’s affinity with the movement.
Macron and Rivera are currently scoping potential allies across Europe. Members of the platform said they are still discussing the format of the political organisation, although they did not give details about the parties interested to join or whether there would be a kick-off congress in the coming months.
Some of the potential allies are new liberal parties popping up in central and Eastern European countries.
Meanwhile, the leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament, Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, has expressed his willingness to join forces with Macron.
On Thursday, Macron’s right-hand Christophe Castaner published a column in various European newspapers with Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi, Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, Rivera and Verhofstadt, among others.
They invited progressive politicians to join forces and fight resurgent nationalism ahead of the European elections.