This compounds Dijsselbloem’s already significant problems as his party was trounced in the recent Dutch elections. Spain and Portugal now seek his ouster in addition to an apology.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a key euro area dealmaker, is facing calls to resign after he suggested that southern European countries had squandered their money on “booze and women”.
The Dutch finance minister was already under pressure after his Labour party was crushed in last week’s elections in the Netherlands. This had raised questions over whether he would retain his position as minister and be able to see out his term as president of the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers — a crucial role that places him at the heart of negotiations on fiscal policy and bail-outs.
In an effort to stress the responsibilities that come with being in a currency union, Mr. Dijsselbloem said that northern Europe had shown “solidarity” with the south during the crisis, but that solidarity comes with “duties”. “I cannot spend all my money on booze and women and beg for help afterwards,” he said, adding this applies on a personal, national and European level.
The comments have been seized on by politicians across southern Europe, including Portuguese prime minister António Costa, as an offensive stereotyping of nations that bore the brunt of the euro area’s sovereign debt crisis.
Mr. Costa on Wednesday called for Mr. Dijsselbloem’s resignation, saying “Europe will only be credible as a common project” when he has stepped down and “made a clear apology to the countries and peoples who were deeply offended by his comments”.
Describing the comments as “absolutely unacceptable” and “very dangerous,” he said that they showed another face of populism, expressed by people “dressed in sheep’s clothing” and making comments that were “racist, xenophobic and sexist”.
Carlo Calenda, Italy’s economic development minister, said: “Without heartfelt, clear, formal and public apologies, his ability to remain in the job should be questioned.”
Former Italian president Matteo Renzi entered the fray with “The sooner he resigns the better it is. If he wants to offend Italy, he should do it in a sports bar back home, not in his institutional role.”
Dijsselbloem expressed regret over the interview but said on Wednesday he would not step down.
Dijsselbloem’s term expires at the end of 2017 and he will not be reappointed. In the unlikely event the Netherlands forms a new coalition government soon, he will be forced out at that point.
Given that he is gone anyway, he may as well apologize. Instead, this may simmer for another nine months.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock