The Eurogroup yesterday (21 January) appointed Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem as its president for a two-and-a-half year term that can be renewed. Spain was the only country to abstain.
Dijsselbloem’s appointment was backed by 16 of the 17 eurozone finance ministers.
France too had previously expressed reservations but at the end its Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici voted for Dijsselbloem, a fellow Socialist.
The Eurogroup president is elected by a majority of its members, in line with the Protocol on the Eurogroup, which was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon (protocol No. 14).
Dijsselbloem (pronounced ‘die-sell-bloom’) succeeds Jean-Claude Juncker, who has chaired the Eurogroup since 1 January 2005 and was its first-ever permanent president. Prior to Juncker, the group was chaired on a rotating basis.
Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, praised Juncker as a “proactive bridge-builder in tough times”, saying he showed pro-activity in addressing the eurozone debt crisis.
Rehn referred to a low point in the eurozone in the spring of 2011 saying Juncker’s leadership had proven decisive. “His shrewd and witty locker-room talk helped to boost our morale and unite our efforts at that critical moment, as well as at many other critical momements," Rehn said.
Juncker said his style is quite different to the one of Dijsselbloem, but that he was convinced that the Dutchman possessed the energy and all the qualities needed for this “very difficult” post.
Dijsselbloem was given the floor at the press conference following his nomination on 21 January. He praised Juncker for being “a European in mind and in heart” and “an outstanding president” of the Eurogroup.
“It’s a distinct honour to be given the responsibility to succeed Jean-Claude,” he said, thanking his colleagues for their confidence. He added that he had put forward his candidature because he is convinced that he can contribute to “good collective decisionmaking”.
Looking ahead, he insisted on preserving the European social-economic model that EU citizens cherish, and that he expected 2013 to be a crucial year.
“Confidence has begun to return to the euro area. But … the job is not done yet. We still have a lot to do to strengthen trust, to help create sustainable growth and to increase employment. We need to keep the momentum … to live up to promises we’ve made and take further steps where needed”, he said.
The first negative reactions to Dijsselbloem’s appointment point out at his relative inexperience – he had been finance minister of the Netherlands barely six weeks when his name was first floated as a Eurogroup contender.
Dijsselbloem’ inexperience is also interpreted in the sense that he would be easily manipulated by Germany.