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Dijsselbloem heads Eurogroup

January 21, 2013

Eurozone finance ministers have elected Dutchman Jeroen Dijsselbloem as the Eurogroup's new chairman. He's succeeded Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg heading the group for eight years and throughout the debt crisis.

Image: GOBET/AFP/Getty Images

In a carefully staged handover of leadership powers, eurozone finance ministers on Monday night elected Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands the new chair of the Eurogroup. Being the only candidate, the 46-year-old Social Democrat finance minister formally announced his candidacy last Thursday in an address to his national parliament.

Clearing a last hurdle, Dijsselbloem managed to convince France with his plans for the job - Paris demanding an open debate about how to get the 17-member single-currency area out of a spiral of austerity and recession.

The Dutchman follows Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister and a political heavyweight who'd been at the helm of the Eurogroup for eight years, most of which he'd spent trying to fight the eurozone's debt crisis.

Change of direction?

His successor finds himself in a situation where tensions have eased considerably on markets compared with half a year ago when there was much talk about a looming Greek exit from the euro and a number of member countries being forced into bailouts.

"There seems to be a new basis of trust," Dijsselbloem told reporters on Monday, indicating that governments now had more time to focus on incentives to help foster growth and thus boost employment with Europe currently logging a jobless rate of a little under 12 percent.

At their meeting in Brussels, the eurozone finance ministers also dealt with Cyprus' bid to secure an international bailout in June.

The country still needed to agree to required privatization measures and convince potential creditors that concerns over money-laundering were unfounded. No final bailout decision is expected ahead of February 17 when citizens go to the polls in a general election.

hg/kms (AFP, dpa)