Fury at eurozone chief Dijsselbloem’s ‘racist’ remarks

President of Eurogroup, Dutch Finance Minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem on 21 MarchImage copyright

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Mr Dijsselbloem insisted his comments were not meant to refer to any country in particular

The head of eurozone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is facing calls to resign over comments that were seen as an attack on southern European states.

The Eurogroup chief refused to apologise for an interview in which he appeared to criticise indebted EU member states.

“I can’t spend all my money on liqueurs and women and then go and ask for your support,” he said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said he should stand down.

Condemning the remarks as racist and xenophobic, Mr Costa said Europe would only become credible as a common project “on the day Mr Dijsselbloem is no longer president of the Eurogroup or when there is a clear apology to the countries and peoples who have been profoundly offended by these comments”.

Several Spanish politicians were also offended by the remarks. Gabriel Mato, a centre-right MEP, said the Dutch minister had lost his neutrality and credibility. Another Spanish MEP, Ernest Urtasun, said the remarks were unacceptable and full of “completely false stereotypes about the countries of the south”.

Dutch poll disaster

Mr Dijsselbloem insisted he was not referring to any country in particular, merely emphasising the “principles designed to strengthen economic and monetary union”.

The Dutch finance minister played a key role in negotiating a deal on the Greek debt crisis and, although part of a centre-left party himself, he was accused by some on the left of promoting austerity policies.

His Labour party was the main casualty in last week’s general election in the Netherlands, losing 29 of its 38 seats.

He will lose his job as Dutch finance minister when a coalition government is agreed in the coming weeks. His four-year term as Eurogroup head is due to finish in January 2018.

Fury at eurozone chief Dijsselbloem’s ‘racist’ remarks