Dutch finance minister wins German backing to lead Eurogroup
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem won the backing of Germany as well as one of Europe's most influential deal brokers, Jean-Claude Juncker, to take over at the helm of the Eurogroup, the powerful body of euro zone finance ministers.
Juncker, the outgoing president of the Eurogroup, gave his endorsement to Dijsselbloem during the Dutchman's visit to Luxembourg on Friday. He has been widely expected to take on the role of chairing the ministers' meetings.
"The Dutch finance minister presented his candidacy, which is a good one," Juncker told reporters. Earlier, a spokeswoman for Germany's finance minister said that Wolfgang Schaeuble strongly backed Dijsselbloem's appointment.
The decision on the appointment will be taken on Monday, when euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels.
Finland, which like Germany is a AAA-rated euro zone member, is also in favour.
The appointment of a minister from the Netherlands, which belongs to a group of northern European countries in favour austerity and strict economic reform, has received a cooler response elsewhere.
France, which faces an urgent need for economic reform, remained silent on Friday. Earlier this week, its finance minister Pierre Moscovici told a German newspaper that he wanted to know more about Dijsselbloem's agenda.
Dijsselbloem said he would present his priorities for the role at the January 21 meeting.
"My French colleague has asked me for a presentation on my vision on the Eurogroup," he said. "I am very glad to give that on Monday."
Dijsselbloem, 46, was appointed finance minister of the Netherlands in November and identified by European leaders shortly afterwards as a successor to Juncker.
The president of the Eurogroup is appointed for 2-1/2 years, although Juncker chaired the gathering since 2005, helping shape the response of euro zone governments throughout three years of financial turmoil.
The Eurogroup decided on bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal and set up the 440 billion euro EFSF temporary bailout fund as well as the 500 billion euro ESM permanent fund.
The role of the Eurogroup, and that of its president, will grow in the coming years as the euro zone heads towards more integrated economic policymaking, budget control, debt management and a banking union.
(Reporting By Michele Sinner, writing by John O'Donnell; editing by Rex Merrifield)
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