Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Netherlands' finance minister, has emerged as the front-runner to become the next president of the Eurogroup, the meetings of eurozone finance ministers. Dijsselbloem, who became finance minister in November, has the implicit backing of the French and German governments as well as of Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council.
Eurozone finance ministers are planning to decide on the appointment at a meeting on 21 January. The new president will replace Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who announced in December that he would step down at the end of this year. Juncker has been Eurogroup president since 1 January 2005.
Officials say that Dijsselbloem's lack of experience as a finance minister and slender background in economics count against him. Dijsselbloem trained as an agricultural engineer and has been active in education policy as a Dutch MP. It was only in the context of the new Dutch coalition government of the liberal VVD and the centre-left PvdA this autumn that he acquired his ministerial role. But the lack of serious rivals for the position puts Dijsselbloem in a strong position despite his limited credentials. Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's finance minister, and Pierre Moscovici, his French counterpart, have been mentioned as possible candidates but do not have adequate support from other eurozone governments.
Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro, said on Tuesday (18 December) that he was not a candidate for the presidency.
The Eurogroup had considered appointing one of their female ministers as president, but officials say there were objections to the two possible candidates, Maria Fekter from Austria, who is seen as too abrasive, and Jutta Urpilainen from Finland, who is not highly regarded by her peers.