Dutch minister expected to be named Eurogroup chief

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Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is to be named the next chairman of eurozone finance ministers in January, diplomatic sources told German newspaper Handelsblatt.

France has abandoned its reservations over the 46-year old, the business daily reported on Tuesday (8 January). He has received particular support from Germany, which insists that the next chairman comes from a financially stable eurozone government that has maintained the maximum AAA score from economy rating agencies.

In heading the so-called Eurogroup, Dijsselbloem will take over a key role in managing the bloc’s debt crisis.

The official decision on who will succeed Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker at the helm of the eurozone’s most powerful economic policymaking body will come on 21 January.

Dijsselbloem is on a tour of European capitals. On Monday he met European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, as well as his colleagues from Belgium and Luxembourg. He was also travelling to Rome and Paris.

Dijsselbloem was appointed finance minister in the Netherlands in November after Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal party won a general election in September and formed a coalition with the Labour party.

Dijsselbloem has been a Labour member of parliament for most of the past 12 years.

His appointment to chair the Eurogroup had been informally agreed at the European Union summit in December, although leaders left the formal decision to finance ministers, as required by the EU treaty.

Eurogroup presidents are appointed for 2-1/2 year terms.

The Eurogroup has been key to shaping the response of eurozone governments to market pressure over the three years of the sovereign debt crisis that started in Greece.

The Eurogroup decided on bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal and set up the €440 billion euro EFSF temporary bailout fund as well as the €500 billion ESM permanent fund.

The role of the Eurogroup, and that of its president, will grow in the coming years as the eurozone heads towards more integrated economic policymaking, budget control, debt management and a banking union.

The Eurogroup comprises the finance ministers of the 17 countries of the eurozone. It is an informal group, set up in 1998, which meets on average once a month, ahead of Ecofin meetings – involving finance ministers of all the 27 EU countries.

The group has gained influence as the eurozone crisis unfolded, becoming a key forum for finance ministers to make decisions on how to tackle the crisis.

Luxembourg Prime Minister and Finance Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has been the first semi-permanent chairman of the Eurogroup since the beginning of 2005. Before, the group was chaired by the finance minister of the country holding the EU presidency.

Under the group’s rules, Juncker should have stepped down in 2009 after two consecutive two-year terms. However, the financial and economic crisis which hit Europe at the end of 2008 pushed eurozone finance ministers to opt for continuity.

Ministers first delayed their decision about a new appointment and then at the end of 2009 chose to confirm Juncker for another two and half years. His mandate ended in mid-2012, but leaders asked him to stay on.

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