EUROPE

Jeroen Dijsselbloem new chief of euro zone finance ministers' forum

Jeroen Dijsselbloem takes over from Jean-Claude Juncker as chief of the euro-zone financial forum

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 3:48am
AFP

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Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands took over yesterday as chairman of the euro-zone finance ministers' forum, despite surprise Spanish resistance.

"We appointed the Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem to become the new president of the Eurogroup," said outgoing head Jean-Claude Juncker.

A statement said that Dijsselbloem was given a 30-month term and that he "will retain his [Dutch] post whilst chairing the Eurogroup".

The decision brought to an end eight years mostly spent battling global financial headwinds that morphed into the euro-zone debt crisis for Luxembourg Prime Minister Juncker, Europe's longest-serving national leader.

Dijsselbloem was expected to immediately face fresh scrutiny yesterday at talks between all 27 European Union finance ministers, with the Netherlands sitting out a bid by 11 euro-zone states to launch a tax on financial transactions.

The 46-year-old Dutchman said it was "a distinct honour to be given the possibility to succeed Jean-Claude", adding that it was key to "preserve the social European model that we so much cherish".

Only appointed nationally in November, Dijsselbloem had made a flying visit to Madrid last Thursday night after announcing his lone candidacy earlier that day in the Dutch parliament.

After his election, he said that Spanish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos maintained that Madrid would "work with me in a very professional and positive way", brushing aside concerns that almost all the top euro-zone posts are now held by nationals of triple A-rated members.

Firm backer and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said the nomination was "a good decision".

European Union president Herman Van Rompuy said that all 17 euro-zone national leaders were fully behind the appointment of Dijsselbloem.

Juncker had admitted on his way into the Brussels talks feelings of melancholy and relief ahead of the handover.

With tensions notably eased on markets compared to six months ago, when worries were rife about a Greek exit from the euro, or Spain and Italy being forced into bailouts, Dijsselbloem said his job was all about "further restoring trust in the euro and the euro zone", freeing politicians to focus on policies that can help foster "growth and jobs".