Dijsselbloem under fire for criticizing southern European countries' spending habits

Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl). (Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl))

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Eurogroup chairman and departing Finance Minister, is facing fire over statements made about southern European countries in an interview with the Frankfurter Allegemeine on Monday.

In the interview he said that he finds the Stability Pact, which contains the EU budget rules, very important. He praised the "northern countries" for showing "solidarity" with "crisis countries", but that comes with "responsibilities", he said. "I can't spend all my money on alcohol and women and then ask you for help", he said.

On Tuesday night Gianni Pitella, the Italian leader of the social-democratic faction in the European Parliament, emphatically distanced himself from Dijsselbloem's statements, NOS reports. He called the statements shameful and unworthy of a social democrat. He also said that Dijsselbloem lost his vote for finishing his term as Eurogroup chairman, despite soon no longer being a finance minister.

The Portuguese government also stated on Tuesday that they find Dijsselbloem's words "absolutely unacceptable" and called for him to resign, NRC reports.

According to Dijsselbloem's spokesperson, the departing Minister was speaking about solidarity in the eurozone in general and did not intend to attack certain countries. According to him, there is no reason for the outrage in southern European countries.

Dijsselbloem's term as Eurogroup chairmen ends on January 1st, 2018. As the departing Finance Minister he can keep his position. But should a new Dutch government be formed before his term ends, things become more complicated. The Eurogroup rules do not stipulate that the chairman must be a minister, but for the function's authority it seems impossible for a non-minister to fulfill the role.

Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos wans to succeed Dijsselbloem. He is the one who brought Dijsselbloem's interview with the Frankfurter Allegemeine to the attention fo the European Parliament, according to NOS.