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Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem set to become new Eurogroup head

Associated Press
Jan 21, 2013 at 11:54pm IST

Brussels: The Dutch finance minister was poised on Monday to take over as head of the eurogroup, the group of the 17 eurozone finance ministers, which would give him one of the top jobs in the eurozone's battle to end its financial crisis. Among his first challenges, besides high debt and unemployment, will be to help negotiate a bailout for Cyprus that has been delayed again amid disagreement on its conditions.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, 46, had broad support ahead of a finance ministers' meeting in Brussels, where the appointment was due to be announced. "Restoring further trust in the euro and building economic prospectives for the countries, that's the main task at hand," he said upon his arrival.

"I think we have to work on growth and new jobs and at the same time we have to balance our budgets," he added. Dijsselbloem (DIE-sell-bloom) served in Dutch parliament as a member of the center-left Labor party for most of the past decade and only became finance minister in November.

Dutchman set to become new Eurogroup head

Dijsselbloem served in Dutch parliament as a member of the center-left Labor party for most of the past decade.

His candidacy came as a surprise because of his lack of experience, but he emerged as the compromise candidate between Europe's main political groups and between the economically stronger and weaker nations. "He's the candidate, he's the only one, so obviously he's the best," French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said upon his arrival.

He added the ministers will have an "open and demanding" discussion during which Dijsselbloem will have to lay out how he plans to lead the eurogroup. "It is very important that we know how he sees the future of the eurozone, its integrity, and most of all, the balance between policies promoting growth and the necessity of consolidating the budgets," Moscovici said.

Outgoing Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also prime minister of Luxembourg, has over the past three years been at the heart of efforts to avoid a breakup of the euro, a currency used by 330 million people. He has weathered all-night meetings and wee-hour press conferences with global markets hanging on his every word.

Heading into a meeting in Brussels of the finance ministers today, Juncker, who has held the post for eight years, said he was relieved to step down. He also dashed hopes for a quick solution to the eurozone's latest problem, the cash-strapped Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, which is seeking a bailout from its European partners.

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