For reasons of proximity, the expression “working Dutch hours” – starting early and finishing early – is familiar in Brussels. The practice, however, is still unusual in European Union circles – witness last week's EU summit, whose start was long delayed. The meeting went on all night and the participants dispersed on Friday morning for a few hours' sleep at around the point that the Dutch might start coming in to work.
But this week it seemed as if the arrival of a Dutchman to head the meetings of eurozone finance ministers had had an immediate cultural effect. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, was chairing the Eurogroup for the first time and the meeting began on time on Monday (11 February) and ended so swiftly that Dijsselbloem was giving the post-meeting press conference at 6.30pm, four or five hours earlier than the norm. However, the prompt finish might have been related to the finance ministers' exceptional need to go to a dinner to thank Dijsselbloem's predecessor as Eurogroup president, Jean-Claude Juncker. It will not be until next month that we learn whether Dijsselbloem is going to change the Eurogroup habit of keeping late hours.