April 7, 2017 / 9:33 AM / in 4 months

Dijsselbloem says he intends to remain eurogroup head until mandate ends

Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem talks to the media as he arrives at European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium February 21, 2017.Francois Lenoir

VALLETTA (Reuters) - The head of the eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said on Friday he did not intend to resign before his mandate ends in January, his latest attempt to put down calls for him to quit.

Dijsselbloem has been under fire since the end of March after he made comments in a German newspaper interview that were seen as derogatory to southern Europeans and that the Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa called "xenophobic".

After an informal meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Malta, Dijsselbloem repeated he did not intend to quit. "I will continue in my job. There is a lot of work that needs to be done," he told a news conference after the meeting.

On his arrival to the meeting he told reporters: "I am available to finish my mandate," when asked whether he would resign.

At the news conference, he said he opened the meeting by telling ministers he regretted his choice of words in the German interview, but noted that no minister asked him to resign.

In the interview, Dijsselbloem had suggested that the southern EU states could not expect aid if they squandered their money on "booze and women".

His term as chair of the eurogroup ends in January. He has held the post since 2013, helping to steer the currency union through its worst crisis since its creation.

The criticism of his controversial remarks, which he said were not meant to offend anybody, followed a defeat of Dijsselbloem's center-left party in the March general elections in the Netherlands, which may force him out from his post as Dutch finance minister.

But talks to form a new coalition government in the Netherlands are likely to go on "for quite a while," Dijsselbloem said, hinting that a compromise may not come before January.

Eurogroup chairs have always been finance or economics ministers, but no rules prevent incumbents from staying on if they lose their ministerial job.

Dijsselbloem also said he would speak before the European Parliament's plenary on April 27, a move to end lawmakers' uproar after he declined to appear in the chamber of the Strasbourg-based legislature this week.

Dijsselbloem often appears before the economic affairs committee of the European parliament but has so far repeatedly declined to speak before the whole chamber.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio, editing by Larry King

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