Acting Dutch finance minister and head of Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, appears to have had a breakdown since the Dutch elections last week crushed his parties' dreams. Instead of staying home and licking his wounds, the head of the eurozone’s finance ministers, has come under attack after refusing to apologize for saying southern European countries had wasted money on "drinks and women" in the run up to the eurozone crisis.
In comments reported in the Spanish press, Mr Dijsselbloem told FAZ:
During the crisis of the euro, the countries of the North have shown solidarity with the countries affected by the crisis.
As a Social Democrat, I attribute exceptional importance to solidarity. [But] you also have obligations.
You can not spend all the money on drinks and women and then ask for help.
And since then all hell has broken loose in Europe with demands for his resignation and his determination not to apologize. Mr Dijsselbloem defended his claims, insisting that “solidarity” in the eurozone meant all governments should stick by promises to adhere to the EU’s budgetary rules on debt and deficit limits.
“Don’t be offended, it is not about one country but about all our countries. The Netherlands also failed a number of years ago to comply with what was agreed [on financial rules]. I don’t see a [conflict between] regions of the eurogroup”.
The Dutch policy chief – whose Labour party suffered a punishing defeat in national elections last week – was dubbed “insulting” and “vulgar” by MEPs...
Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato said the comments were “absolutely unacceptable” and an “insult” to southern member states, claiming Mr Dijsselbloem had lost his “neutrality” as Eurogroup chief.
Spanish MEP Ernest Urtasun told the finance chief: “I think this is an unfortunate statement, maybe it is funny for you, but I don’t think it is. I would like to know if this is your first statement as a candidate to renew your post as president of the Eurogroup.”
Spanish finance minister, Luis de Guindos, who has an eye on Dijsselbloem’s position in the Eurogroup, described the comments as unfortunate. “I do not think that Portugal, Greece, Cyprus or Ireland have wasted money. Solidarity is important. They lent us $40billion, but we have lent other countries a similar amount and making such comparisons is not ideal,” de Guindos said.
Portugal’s finance minister Augusto Santos Silva said Dijsselbloem’s statements were “very unfortunate” and called on him to resign. “It seems that the president of the Eurogroup has spent all these years without understanding what really happened to countries like Portugal, Spain or Ireland,” Silva said. He added “He can not remain as the head of the Eurogroup.”
Matteo Renzi, Italy’s former prime minister and aspiring leader of the centre-left Democratic party, has called on Jeroen Dijsselbloem (pictured) to quit as head of the Eurogroup. In a scathing Facebook post on Wednesday morning, Mr Renzi said Mr Dijsselbloem “lost a great opportunity to be quiet” and “does not deserve” to keep his position as leader of the eurozone finance ministers. “The sooner he resigns the better it is. For him but also for the credibility of European institutions,” Mr Renzi wrote. “If he wants to offend Italy, he should do it in a sports bar back home, not in his institutional role,” he added.
In a statement, Five Star also called for Mr Dijsselbloem to step down. “Dijsselbloem’s vision of Europe is evident in the union’s policies: a presumed economic, moral and even cultural superiority coming from northern countries, to the detriment of those in the South”, it said.
As The FT reports, the criticism is likely to heap pressure on Mr Dijsselbloem’s position as chair of 19-member Eurogroup. He is currently the Netherlands interim finance minister after his centre-left party suffered a collapse in support in national elections last week. Gianni Pittella, head of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, the second larger group in the European Parliament, said that Dijsselbloem’s words are shameful and shocking. He asked “How can someone who expresses such beliefs be fit to be the Eurogroup president?”