Dijsselbloem shunned over 'Schnapps and women' statement; "It's like a committed a war crime"
Departing Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem is feeling shunned over a statement he made in an interview over not spending all your money on "Schnapps and women" and then asking for help. "Everyone is walking circles around me", he said in an interview with the Volkskrant. "The issue escalated enormously, it's now like I committed a war crime." Nevertheless, he still stands behind the statement, he said to the newspaper.
In the interview with a German newspaper, Dijsselbloem was talking about fiscal responsibility. "I can not spend all my money on booze and women [Schnapps und frauen] and then ask for help", he told a German newspaper. He later explained that he meant that if you borrow money from the EU, you need to live up to the responsibilities that come with it.
A number of southern European countries took the remark as an insult directed at them. This led to several calls from within the European Parliament for Dijsselbloem to step down as Eurogroup president. Following a meeting with the Eurogroup on Friday, Dijsselbloem said that he will not do so as yet.
"It's sad that we put so much time and energy into an interview while Greece is slipping into a new crisis", Dijsselbloem said to the Volkskrant. He calls it "really annoying that so many people were so offended and angry. But the parliamentarians are trying to push me into a corner, as if I claimed that all southern Europeans are big spenders. Nonsense!" he said.
Dijsselbloem acknowledged that his choice of words were not ideal. He thinks fatigue may have played a role - the interview was three days after the parliamentary election in the Netherlands on March 15th. "Probably I would have rephrased it in a calmer moment. But it was my way of making clear that solidarity is not charity. It's not for nothing that the aid programs of the European emergency fund are accompanied by strict conditions: You get cheap loans provided you take action to restore order. That is an important principle." he said to the newspaper. "I'm sorry if you took offense, but I'm still behind the message."