ECONOMY

Netherlands’ Dijsselbloem seeks second term as Eurogroup president

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Friday he will seek a second term as president of the Eurogroup body of euro zone finance ministers.

The position, once little regarded, has grown sharply in importance during Europe’s debt crisis. Dijsselbloem has been the direct representative of euro zone governments in negotiations with Greece over the bailout package it needs to avoid a default.

The Dutch minister, whose term expires July 21, is widely seen as the favorite for the job, with an outside chance for Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos.

“I see sufficient support to put forward my candidacy with confidence,” Dijsselbloem told journalists after a weekly Cabinet meeting in The Hague.

Dijsselbloem traveled to several European capitals last month to rally support. De Guindos is seen as his main rival after Germany’s Angela Merkel said in August 2014 she would support the Spaniard’s candidacy.

But the Dutch have been a key supporter of German-led austerity policies throughout the crisis and Merkel has not recently publicly backed either candidate.

Dijsselbloem «has the full support of the Cabinet and will formally announce his candidature in a letter to the Eurogroup next week,» spokesman Michel Reijns said.

There are few requirements to become Eurogroup president, other than receiving the support of a majority of its 19 members. The post has so far been held by a sitting finance minister — first Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg and now Dijsselbloem.

Applications for the 2-1/2 year term are due next week, with the new chairman serving from July. [Reuters]