Τρίτη, 21 Μαρτίου 2017

Dijsselbloem under fire after saying eurozone countries wasted money on ‘alcohol and women’


21/3/2017

By Mehreen Khan, Paul McClean

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the eurozone’s finance ministers, has come under attack after refusing to apologise for saying southern European countries had wasted money on “drinks and women” in the run upto the continent’s debt crisis.

At a parliamentary hearing in Brussels on Tuesday, the Dutch policy chief – whose Labour party suffered a punishing defeat in national elections last week – was dubbed “insulting” and “vulgar” by MEPs for remarks made in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Mr Dijsselbloem said he would “not apologise” after coming under pressure to distance himself from remarks perceived as an attack on the bloc’s southern countries including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

In comments reported in the Spanish press, Mr Dijsselbloem told FAZ:

''During the crisis of the euro, the countries of the North have shown solidarity with the countries affected by the crisis.

As a Social Democrat, I attribute exceptional importance to solidarity. [But] you also have obligations. You can not spend all the money on drinks and women and then ask for help.''

Despite being repeatedly quizzed by MEPs and asked if he wanted to apologise, Mr Dijsselbloem stood firm, insisting that “solidarity” in the eurozone meant all governments should stick by promises to adhere to the EU’s budgetary rules on debt and deficit limits.

“The concept that when I am being stern on the rules and regulations… and taking them seriously, that this is an attack, is a huge mistake” he told MEPs.

Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato said the comments were “absolutely unacceptable” and an “insult” to southern member states, claiming Mr Dijsselbloem had lost his “neutrality” as Eurogroup chief.

The criticism is likely to heap pressure on Mr Dijsselbloem’s position as chair of 19-member Eurogroup. He is currently the Netherlands interim finance minister after his centre-left party suffered a collapse in support in national elections last week.

Mr Dijsselbloem’s mandate as president ends in January 2018. Before today he hinted at staying on in the position until a formal coalition is appointed in the Netherlands.

Responding to MEPs criticism, Mr Dijsselbloem said: “Don’t be offended, it is not about one country but about all our countries. The Netherlands also failed a number of years ago to comply with what was agreed [on financial rules]. I don’t see a [conflict between] regions of the eurogroup”.

“I need you to understand that if you want to maintain public and political support throughout the EU for solidarity you must always also talk about what commitments and what efforts must be made by everyone to maintain that solidarity. That is how solidarity should work and will work”.

Spanish MEP Ernest Urtasun‏ told the finance chief: “Maybe it is funny for you, but I don’t think it is. I would like to know if this is your first statement as a candidate to renew your post as president of the Eurogroup.”

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