Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia bid for Eurogroup chair
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[November 30, 2017]
By Jan Strupczewski
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Finance ministers from
Latvia, Portugal and Slovakia bid on Thursday to replace Jeroen
Dijsselbloem as the powerful head of euro zone finance ministers, the
Eurogroup, ahead of a vote next week among the 19 countries sharing the
The president of the Eurogroup chairs monthly meetings of ministers and
chairs the board of governors of the euro zone bailout fund which saved
Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus from bankruptcy in the
sovereign debt crisis.
Finance ministers Dana Reizniece-Ozola of Latvia, Mario Centeno of
Portugal, and Peter Kazimir of Slovakia all submitted formal
applications for the job on Thursday, officials said.
The decision is to be taken on Monday. The successful candidate must get
the support of at least 10 out of the 19 finance ministers around the
table. The vote of the biggest, Germany, counts the same as that of the
The current Eurogroup chairman, Dutchman Jeroen Dijsselbloem will step
down on Jan 13 after two terms since 2012. He is no longer a finance
minister after Dutch elections this year.
European socialists, of which Dijsselbloem is one, have been calling for
the job to remain with a socialist because the European center-right
already has many of the top EU jobs, such as European Commission
president, the chairman of EU leaders or the head of the European
Centeno is a socialist and has the backing of Italy, whose own finance
minister Pier-Carlo Padoan also wanted the job, but dropped out because
it is not certain he will stay in government after Italian elections due
by May 2018.
The Harvard-educated economist has led Portugal during a strong recovery
from the country's 2011-14 debt crisis and bailout. The country is
growing at its fastest pace in at least a decade and the budget deficit
is set to fall to its lowest in many decades.
In May, former German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble dubbed Centeno
the "Ronaldo of EU finance ministers" -- a reference to the Portuguese
soccer star -- as Portugal was about to exit the EU's disciplinary
procedure for running excessive deficits.
[to top of second column]
Dutch Finance Minister
and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem arrives at Eurozone
finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium July 10, 2017.
REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
Some in the Eurogroup say a minister from a country that had to be
bailed out because of past policy mistakes would have smaller chance of
getting the job. Many also say that Centeno, seen as a competent
academic, has not contributed much to Eurogroup discussions in the past.
Slovakia's Kazimir, also a socialist, has run a tight fiscal ship at home and
has been hawkish on bailouts for Greece. Some officials say that among socialist
candidates he would have the backing of Berlin, the Netherlands and the broader
center-right European People's Party (EPP).
"I don't think the EPP would support Centeno. Kazimir is more likely to get
their support," one official close to the election process said.
Kazimir's critics say that he has not taken the opportunity of Slovakia's
European Union presidency to drive his economic agenda harder and show
He is also seen as too fiscally rigorous by other socialists, officials said.
Reizniece-Ozola, 36, is the only female candidate and her party associates
itself with the European center-right, rather than socialists, which could win
her the support of center-right finance ministers. She is a chess grandmaster.
Her critics however, also mention that like in the case of Centeno, she has not
been very vocal in Eurogroup meetings so far and that she had campaigned against
Latvia's adoption of the euro in 2014.
In an interview with Latvian Television in March 2015 she said "she still hasnít
changed her mind" about Latvia joining the euro.
(Additional reporting by Axel Bugge in Lisbon, Tatiana Jancarikovain Bratislava
and Gederts Gelzis in Riga; Reporting By Jan Strupczewski Editing by Jeremy
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