Hard-line Dutch minister named head of Euro-group; only Spain voted against
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has been elected as the new head of the Euro-group, replacing the outgoing Jean-Claude Juncker. The 46 year-old, who has been head of the Dutch Finance Ministry for two months, was expected to take over.
After a 16-1 vote, the finance ministers named Dijsselbloem, an Irish-educated social democrat with flawless English, to succeed Juncker, a Luxembourgian who had headed the group for eight years. Only Spain opposed the appointment.
He said he hoped he would be able to focus on longer-term policies rather than just crisis management. The Euro-group is made up of the finance ministers from the 17 nations that use the single European currency.
Mr Dijsselbloem insisted the Euro zone should continue with economic reforms and austerity measures designed to resolve the debt crisis.
In a letter to the Euro-group before he was elected to lead it, he said: We now need to keep the momentum going, to ensure we retain the confidence we managed to regain in a lasting manner.
Our focus needs to shift from crisis management to delivering and implementing sound medium-term policies.
The French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici was quick to let Mr Dijsselbloem know he will have a tough job matching the achievements of his predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker.
We cannot resign ourselves to Europe being in a spiral of austerity and recession, he said.
Jean-Claude Juncker knew during his period as head of the Euro-group about representing a balanced presidency, balanced between the countries in the north and in the south, between the requirements of budgetary consolidation and hopes of growth, balanced also between perhaps a vision from Germany and from France, he said.
The German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has backed his Dutch counterpart to take over the leadership of the Euro-group for some time.
You know that I supported Jeroen Dijsselbloem's candidacy from early on, because I believe he would make a good head of the Euro-group, he said.
And I find it good... that we use the change in Euro-group head as an occasion to lead a fundamental debate about the working methods of the Euro-group.
The Netherlands is one of the few Euro-zone countries that have retained the highest credit rating throughout the region's debt crisis.
The nation has joined Germany and Finland in taking a hard line on the need for austerity in countries that are benefiting from Euro zone support, such Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.