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Friday, 11 January 2013

Will Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem be appointed as the next Chairman of the Euro-group? Definitely! Has this been done to put the Dutch Euro-sceptic attitude offside? You betcha!

Three and a half weeks ago, on Monday, 17 December 2012, I was present at BNR Newsroom. This is a talk-radio show from the Dutch Business News Radio station BNR (, recorded for a live studio-audience, which deals with news-worthy political, economic and financial issues.

This weekly show, presented by BNR’s hotshot radio-maker Paul van Liempt, featured an interview with the new BNR correspondent for the EU in Brussels, the adorable and smart journalist Anke Truijen.

Picture of Paul van Liempt at BNR Newsroom
Picture taken by Ernst Labruyère
Click to enlarge
Exactly this day the rumour had been spread that the rookie Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem had been named as the successor of Jean-Claude Juncker.

This Luxemburg Prime Minister had chaired the very important and influential Eurogroup during the previous eight years. In this position he had been involved in all important events, concerning the Euro-crisis. This Eurogroup consists of the Finance Ministers of the Euro-zone countries and has a very important role in the negotiation and preparation process of all political decisions concerning the Euro. 

According to the writer of the book “The Eurocrisis” and former Financieele Dagblad ( correspondent in Brussels, Martin Visser, Jean-Claude Juncker had weakened his position as a chairman, by making a large tactical blunder during the Euro-crisis in December, 2010. 

In an Op-Ed to the Financial Times, which Juncker wrote with Italian Finance minister Giulio Tremonti, Juncker mentioned Eurobonds as a possible solution for the Euro-crisis. To state that this plan met very little excitement among the other Euro-zone Finance Ministers, would be the understatement of the year. As a consequence Juncker operated as a lame duck during the last years of his stint as chairman of the Euro-group. 

Still, his role as chairman had been extremely important.

Now, the Dutch Dijsselbloem, who served only for the last Quarter of 2012 as Finance Minister, had been mentioned as his successor. Was this coincidence? Of had something more been going on?!

My question to Anke Truijen was: Is Dijsselbloem mentioned as chairman to get the stubborn Dutchies out of the way with their resistance against further Euro-integration?

Anke Truijen
Picture copied from Anke's Twitter-account
Click to enlarge
Unfortunately, Anke did not hear any rumours about this yet and therefore could not give a definite answer in this matter. However, in my humble opinion this was hardly necessary. Now, almost one month after BNR Newsroom I still stick with my initial suspicion. Why would I doubt it anyway?!

Although Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Dijsselbloem himself still go through the motions of denying that Dijsselbloem is the candidate of choice for the chairman position, it becomes more and more clear that Dijsselbloem is indeed the one and only candidate.

Juncker himself stated that the candidate comes from a country where they speak a Benelux-language (French, Dutch and Luxemburgian). Other insiders stated that the country that delivers the next chairman should be a country with a Triple-A credit rating (Luxemburg, Finland, Germany and The Netherlands).

To do the math: 

  • a German chairman would be unacceptable for other countries as this would make Germany too influential within the Euro-zone;
  • Luxemburg just had delivered the chairman and choosing another chairman from Luxemburg would be out of the question. On top of that Juncker had messed up his job;
  • Belgium already delivers Van Rompuy as President of the EU and, besides that, it has no Triple-A status anymore;
  • Finland does not speak a Benelux-language and already delivers the very influential EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn;
To help the journalists and people even further, they could have said that the candidate should have dark-brown, curly hair and should wear frameless glasses:

Jeroen Dijsselbloem
Picture courtesy of
Click to enlarge
Why was I so sure from the beginning that Dijsselbloem would get this position, even though it was nothing more than a rumour yet?

If we look at the recent history of The Netherlands within the Euro-zone, it would be an overstatement to state that the Dutch role has been very constructive lately.

In earlier articles, I called PM Mark Rutte and former Finance Minister Jan-Kees de Jager the school-bullies of the Euro-zone. They did little more than bashing the PIIGS-countries and saying ‘nyet’ to almost any decision that could help the EU move forward, even at moments that the very carefully operating German chancellor Angela Merkel already had given her approval.

The Netherlands, although a small country, has one of the strongest economies within the Euro-zone, it has almost the highest GDP per capita in Europe, it is relatively the biggest exporter within the EU and it is one of the few remaining Triple-A countries in the world. On top of that, it is one of the founders of the European Community for Coal and Steel, the earliest predecessor of the current EU. Within the European Union, it is a must to have the Dutch on your team.

On the other hand, the country has been one of the most euro-sceptical Euro-zone members lately, only beaten by the Finns who are currently strongly under the influence of the populist True Finns party.

To prevent the Dutch PM Mark Rutte and the new Finance Minister from staying in their comfort-zone of easy Euro-scepticism, the EU is planning to make Dijsselbloem chairman of the Euro-group.

This solves two problems: 1) The Netherlands again deserves an influential position within the EU and 2) the EU is certain that The Netherlands will play a constructive role within the Euro-group and it can’t just lean back, waiting for other countries to solve the issues.

The chairman of the Euro-group must put the agenda for the meetings together and he cannot be too Euro-sceptical if he doesn’t want to lose his credibility. If the Eurogroup agenda – put together by Dijsselbloem – would show too little progress on the road to the future, ‘Mother’ Merkel would be ready to whip up the process. Thus the Euro-sceptical Dutch are out of the way, leaving only the Finns behind: a country that is small enough to be either ignored or overpowered.

Therefore the election of Dijsselbloem, although he is a freshman Finance Minister with hardly three months of experience, is a tactical masterpiece and thus inevitable in my opinion. And PM Mark Rutte? He will grind his teeth and accept this honourable position with the  ‘smile’ of a hungry great white shark.

Does The Netherlands 'gain' something by Dijsselbloem’s election?! Oh yeah!

I was bothered by the recent Dutch Euro-scepticism as I considered it to be counterproductive, blunt and utterly stupid.

Now the christian-democrat CDA and especially the populist PVV lost their important role within the Dutch political process, the VVD and particularly Mark Rutte remain on their own with their Euro-scepticism. The PvdA (Dutch labour) is much more pro-Europe and has with Frans Timmermans an extremely adequate and learned Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Dijsselbloem, although inexperienced, has everything to become a very good Finance Minister. He seems honest, balanced and fair and he is very intelligent. He doesn't seem to have the negative bias towards the Euro that his predecessor seemingly had. 

He has been the chairman of a parliamentary investigative commission that investigated the trouble within the Dutch educational system and did a very fine job there. Further, he has nothing running against him. 

To put it even stronger: I voted for him during the last Dutch parliamentary elections. He is my so-called “guy in Den Haag” (i.e. The Hague).

Now it is time for the Dutch to collect some bonus-points again and – on top of that – help the Euro-crisis to be solved for the future, before the same ol’ same ol’ concerning Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal starts all over again. 

I have no doubt that Dijsselbloem will play an important role in this process; helped by his colleagues within the EU and in spite of the ignorant, blunt and seemingly clueless PM Mark Rutte.

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