Portugal Finance Minister Mario Centeno ‘has not excluded the possibility’ of becoming the next president of the Eurogroup following media reports that he could replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem who lost his job as finance minister in the Dutch general election in March.
The Eurogroup is made up of the 19 finance ministers from the euro area countries and currently is led by the Dutch Finance Minister who was meant to continue as its president until January 2018, until electoral disaster struck back home.
It is up to the 19 euro countries to decide who is going to replace Dijsselbloem, who in March 2017, famously told a German newspaper:
“As a Social Democrat, I attribute exceptional importance to solidarity. But those who call for it also have duties. I cannot spend all my money on drinks and women and then hold my hand up for help. That principle applies on a personal, local, national and also on a European level,” while referring to Southern European countries affected by the debt crisis.
Portugal’s PM, António Costs said at the time that Dijsselbloem’s words were; “racist, xenophobic and sexist” and that “Europe will only be credible as a common project on the day when Mr. Dijsselbloem stops being Head of the Eurogroup and apologises clearly to all the countries and peoples that were profoundly offended by his remarks.”
The European Commission announced in June that Portugal no longer is in breach of its budget rules. The Portuguese economy has improved, the deficit was around 2% of GDP in 2016 – well below the EU’s 3% threshold – and all is set for Centeno to take up the Eurogroup’s presidency.
When asked about the new job by an El País reporter, Centeno said, “I won’t say that there is no possibility.”
There is competition thoug, as Emmanuel Macron is seeking to increase France’s economic say within the EU by securing top jobs for his pet French officials after years of subservience to Germany.
Macron wants Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, to head the Eurogroup to replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem and already is lobbying hard to displace Centeno who was considered favourite.
Other important EU economic posts that need to be filled include that of deeply incompetent Vítor Constâncio, the Portuguese vice-president of the ECB, who leaves in May next year and whose role Spain covets, and two other members of the ECB’s executive board – Benoît Cœuré of France, and Peter Praet of Belgium, the bank’s chief economist – who depart in 2019.
It would be a crowning glory for Portugal’s prime minister should his finance minister take on the presidency of the Eurogroup, further cementing Portugal’s as a successful post-bailout country and bringing kudos to the country within a European structure that has not always been helpful.