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Dutchman to lead eurogroup

Tue., Jan. 22, 2013, midnight

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, left, the new president of the eurogroup, sits next to the resigning president, Jean-Claude Juncker, after a eurogroup finance ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on Monday. (Associated Press)
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, left, the new president of the eurogroup, sits next to the resigning president, Jean-Claude Juncker, after a eurogroup finance ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on Monday. (Associated Press)

BRUSSELS – The Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, was elected Monday as the new president of the group of euro area finance ministers.

Dijsselbloem, 46, who has only been the Netherlands’ finance minister since November, will now face one of the world’s most daunting financial tasks: helping to lead the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro back to financial stability.

Some EU leaders feel the corner has been turned in the effort to save the euro currency.

But at a press conference after the meeting of the eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, at which he was elected, Dijsselbloem cautioned against overconfidence.

“The job isn’t done yet,” he said.

He promised to focus on growth and further integration.

“The completion of the banking union is essential,” he said.

Dijsselbloem replaces Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who held the job for eight years. Despite his inexperience, Dijsselbloem will face immediate challenges, including negotiating a bailout for Cyprus, reducing high national debt in some countries as well as crushing unemployment, and dealing with growing opposition to austerity in some eurozone countries.

Dijsselbloem had broad support at the finance ministers meeting, but Spain did not vote in favor of him. Dijsselbloem said the Spanish finance minister, Luis de Guindos, offered no explanation for his lack of support.

Dijsselbloem served in the Dutch parliament as a member of the center-left Labor party for most of the past decade until being named finance minister about two months ago. His candidacy to lead the eurogroup came as a surprise, but he emerged as the compromise candidate among Europe’s main political groups and between economically stronger and weaker nations.

The Netherlands’ top-notch AAA credit rating and long-standing 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.


 

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