Eurogroup head angers southern EU countries

"I cannot spend all my money on drinks and women and plead for your support afterwards," Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in an interview, referring to solidarity with Europe's crisis-hit states. Madrid and Lisbon promptly called for his resignation. Some commentators also take Dijsselbloem to task while others show more understanding for his position.

Open/close all quotes
Público (PT) /

Not even Schäuble would have gone this far

Several days after Dijsselbloem's comment Público is still incensed:

“His words were wrong in so many ways - starting with the boorish and macho demeanour - that calls for his dismissal are inevitable. Worse than wasting money on 'women and drinks' is to give interviews that only rub salt in the wound between the 'hard-working north' and the 'lazy south'. An old discussion that leads nowhere. … Dijsselbloem doesn't need to win any more elections; they have just taken place and his PvdA party suffered a major defeat. So this kind of comment is completely counterproductive. … Not even Wolfgang Schäuble would have dared to use this kind of careless pub talk, and at such a politically tense moment for Europe.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Dijsselbloem put his post in jeopardy

Jeroen Dijsselbloem has put his entire career at risk with his derogatory comment, De Volkskrant observes:

“The interview has given his opponents inside and outside the Eurozone ammunition against him. … Dijsselbloem has landed himself in a difficult position with his women-and-drinks comment. He knows perfectly well that the situation in the countries of the Eurozone has grown harder in recent years and that not everyone sees him as an unbiased president. ... The 19 finance ministers decide who is the leader of their Eurogroup. Dijsselbloem has no option but to put his fate in their hands.”

To Vima und To Vima Online (GR) /

Greeks are no ascetics

The Greeks should adopt a softer tone because the Eurogroup head is not entirely wrong, the web portal To Vima advises:

“Quite apart from the fact that Mr Dijsselbloem's comments are of a populist bent, it is time for us to stop concealing our weaknesses. Because it is true that huge sums of European money have been wasted on unproductive measures, at least in Greece. … We must admit that we are not an ascetic people. This is not necessarily negative but there can be no doubt that for years we put our temporary well-being above investing in the future. Today we are paying the price for this. Less outraged protests, less populism, less moralising and a better understanding of the ways in which we are different would perhaps be a better way of tackling our current problems and the challenges of the future.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Standard clichés from the establishment

With his ill-considered comment Dijsselbloem has shown that populism is not confined to the far right, writes taz:

“It draws on the common cliché that the lazy southerners are throwing the money the hard-working northern Europeans generously lend them out the window. So the roles of the good and the bad are clearly assigned and the fact that the euro crisis is a result of structural problems is forgotten. Among those problems is the wage-dumping policy pursued by the Netherlands and Germany in order to boost their exports. Gigantic export surpluses are only possible if other countries have trade deficits - or in other words get into debt. All populists employ the classic trick of personalising structural problems and then seeking the culprits - ideally foreign ones. As the Dijsselbloem case shows, populists don't just go by the names Geert Wilders or Frauke Petry. The EU establishment has also long since been infected.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Dijsselbloem must resign

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem must not remain in office for another day, El Mundo demands:

“One of the characteristics any politician who presides over an intergovernmental organisation must possess is the capacity to get on well with all the countries he represents. … The Eurogroup has the mission to study, coordinate and apply the common economic policy of the countries that have adopted the euro, and its relevance has increased as a result of the debt crisis and the Greek bailout. It is counterproductive when the president of that group angers several member governments by making utterly inappropriate comments that testify to a total contempt for the citizens of the insulted countries. Dijsselbloem must not remain president of the Eurogroup for a single day longer. He refuses to resign and has justified his words pointing to the Dutch people's 'direct' manner of speaking. But right now no one can be told more clearly that he 'doesn't represent us'.”

Protagon.gr (GR) /

No understanding for southern Europeans

Dijsselbloem simply doesn't understand the southern European lifestyle, writes Protagon:

“In the Dionysian culture of the south you don't need money or women to enjoy life. Not everyone is forced to pursue this way of life. But nor is one obliged to renounce it and become like the Dutch or the Germans. That would make both sides unhappy - like in a marriage between two people with very different characters. … And in the end the south has already paid the price for its lifestyle and assumed responsibility for its 'inconsistent way of life'.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

Dijsselbloem not far from the truth

Lisbon should keep a cool head regarding Dijsselbloem's remarks, Jornal de Negócios advises:

“Basically Dijsselbloem voiced what many people (also in the south) think, but lack the courage to say openly: the member states don't just have rights (regarding their spending) but also obligations - and they must not put the financial stability of the house we all share (the EU) at risk. In Portugal we can respond in two ways to Dijsselbloem's statement: with a heated reaction typical of those who want to divert attention from the real problems, or with indifference and a shrug - with an ironic 'Forget it - the man is under stress'. But at the same time we should start thinking about what changes we can make to our lifestyle.”

Público (PT) /

A Europe of many prejudices

The head of the Eurogroup has clearly gone too far, Público complains:

“Dijsselbloem has a theory about what the southern member states are doing with the money the northern states lend them. And the south has a theory about Dijsselbloem: that he didn't complete his Master's degree, that he's obsessed with cutting spending - and that he is replaceable. Unfortunately the controversy about his 'drinks and women' comment confirms the current state of Europe: there are prejudices everywhere that are dividing people and widening the gaps. … These prejudices already existed before the euro crisis but it is true that they have become entrenched because of it - also among the Eurogroup leadership. … Europe has always been a place of mutual misunderstandings. But what Dijsselbloem's comments show is that the limits dictated by propriety are being overstepped.”