Just a few weeks into the job and Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem seems set to be parachuted into a top EU finance post, as chairman of the euro group.
This week Dijsselbloem has been on a tour of other European capitals and EU watchers say he could be confirmed in the job as early as January 21, when eurozone finance ministers next meet.
Dijsselbloem emerged as front runner to take over from Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker in December, despite being virtually unknown outside the Netherlands.
Website European Voice says Dijsselbloem, an agricultural engineer with little financial experience, ‘ticks all the boxes’.
The Netherlands has a Triple A rating and its prime minister is a leading fiscal hawk, a key demand from German chancellor Angela Merkel. And despite France’s misgivings, Dijsselbloem is from the same sort of party – social democratic – as president Francois Hollande, the website says.
In a blog for the Wall Street Journal, Brussels correspondent Matthew Dalton says it is one of ‘the idiosyncrasies of European politics’ that several top jobs have been handed to politicians who were unknown outside, and sometimes inside, their own countries.
And in terms of international recognition, president of the European Council Herman van Rompuy and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are ‘movie stars compared to Dijsselbloem’, he states.
Dijsselbloem also happens to be Dutch at just the right time, Dalton says. ‘The Netherlands, which is an important player in the euro-zone debate as one of the bloc’s most credit-worthy governments, hasn’t landed a top European job for one of its own recently.’
In addition, he is not likely to ruffle many feathers, Dalton says. ‘He’ll lead the meetings and set the formal agenda. But Germany, France, the ECB and, to a lesser extent, the European Commission, will craft the big decisions, as they have throughout the euro-zone crisis.’
The Volkskrant asks what the Netherlands has to gain if Dijsselbloem gets the top job, as expected.
One plus is that the appointment will mean a second place in the euro group for the Netherlands. Dijsselbloem’s chair round the table will be filled, probably by a senior finance minister official or the Dutch ambassador to the EU, the paper says. And they will able to be straightforward and open in pushing for Dutch demands.
Dijsselbloem will also hear first hand all the ideas and problems facing his colleagues, and that will enable him to decide how the agendas are structured, the paper said. That gives him considerable sway over major decisions, such as help for the weaker eurozone countries.
The former Labour party spokesman on education has also been able to show other finance ministers that he is much more approachable and responsive than his predecessor Jan Kees de Jager, who was perceived by many as being too blunt.
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