Dijsselbloem under pressure for comments


Eurozone chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem came under increasing pressure Wednesday to step down for what many see as derogatory comments about southern debt-ridden nations that have sought outside help to emerge from financial crisis.

Dijsselbloem referred to crisis countries in an interview early this week with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, saying that "I cannot spend all my money on liquor and women and then ask for your support."

"We regard it as absolutely unacceptable for him to stay in his post," Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Wednesday.

"Mr. Dijsselbloem has insulted us. Mr. Dijsselbloem has shown himself to be sexist, racist, xenophobic and an embarrassment for Europe, and because of that he cannot hold any EU post," Costa said.

Debt-heavy Portugal needed a 78 billion-euro bailout in 2011 to save it from bankruptcy as lenders demanded high rates of return for the risk of lending it money. An unpopular three-year program of spending cuts helped repair the country's public finances. The budget deficit, which stood at more than 10 percent in 2010, fell last year to just over 2 percent, the lowest in more than 40 years.

The EU's antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, also made clear she opposed Dijsselbloem's remark. "I would not have said it, and I think it's wrong," she said.

The leaders of the European Parliament's two biggest groups, the EPP Christian Democrats and the S&D Socialists, also have criticized Dijsselbloem.

Dijsselbloem, a socialist, has been chairing the meetings of the 19-nation group that shares the euro currency and was in office when Greece almost fell out of the club in the summer of 2015 because of its high debt and difficulties in committing to financial and economic reforms.

Dijsselbloem already faces questions about whether he can hold on to his post after his Labor Party had a disastrous showing in last week's Dutch elections. [AP]