Eurogroup head slammed over ‘drinks and women’ remarks

The row further calls into question Dutch finance minister Dijsselbloem’s position as leader of his colleagues in the 19-country eurozone, after his party lost out in elections last week.

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“During the euro crisis, the countries of the north of the eurozone showed solidarity with the countries in crisis,” he was quoted as saying in an interview that appeared in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Monday.

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“For me, as a social democrat, I think that solidarity is extremely important. But those who benefit also have duties,” he added.

“I can’t spend all my money on drinks and women and then ask for help.”

Dijsselbloem refused to apologise late Tuesday. “No, certainly not,” he told a European Parliament lawmaker during a hearing when asked he would say sorry.

But he faced mounting criticism in Europe.

Manfred Weber, the head of the largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party, tweeted Wednesday: “Eurozone is about responsibility, solidarity but also respect. No room for stereotypes. @J_Dijsselbloem.”

“I truly wonder how someone with these views can still be head of the Eurogroup,” said Gianni Pittella, the head of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, branding his remarks “shameful” and “discriminatory towards the countries of southern Europe”.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said in Washington Tuesday that Dijssebloem’s remarks were “absolutely unacceptable” and that he was “not fit to remain head of the Eurogroup”.

Dijsselbloem is set to lose his job as Dutch finance minister in the coming months after his Labour party suffered heavy losses in the Netherlands’ general election.

But his mandate as head of the Eurogroup lasts until January 2018 and EU rules do not specify that the person holding the position must actually be a finance minister.

He has won praise for steering the eurozone through the Cyprus and Greek debt crises, but there have long been tensions in the single currency area between austerity-pushing northern countries and the debt-hit south.