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Euro zone finance ministers discuss region’s problems amid doubts over who'll be its next leader

Newly elected Eurozone President and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem attends an Eurogroup meeting.
Georges Gobet | AFP | GettyImages
Newly elected Eurozone President and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem attends an Eurogroup meeting.

The 19 finance ministers of the euro area met in Brussels Monday to discuss the Greek bailout program. However, the group is faced with problems of its own.

The current president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is at risk of losing his seat after a general election in the Netherlands last week, where his Labour Party saw a significant setback. As a result, Dijsselbloem is unlikely to keep his role as Dutch finance minister and could therefore leave the Eurogroup.

"As you know my mandate runs until January. The formation of a new coalition government in the Netherlands may take some months so whether there's a gap between the arrival of a new minister and the end of my mandate is too early to say," Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the acting finance minister of the Netherlands told reporters in Brussels.

"If there is a gap in time between those two then it's up to the Eurogroup to decide how they want to proceed and I think I should discuss it with the ministers in the coming months," he said as he arrived for a meeting with the other 18 ministers. During this time, ministers are set to discuss "what solutions they would prefer."

The Dutch politician is popular among the group and is a strong advocate of further integration in the euro zone. The Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, said Monday that Dijsselbloem has been a "very good president" and the Belgian minister, Johan Van Overtveldt, stressed that Dijsselbloem has done "a great job."

On Monday, Dijsselbloem told the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) -- which is the bailout fund of the euro area -- should become a European version of the International Monetary Fund.

However, until now, every president of the Eurogroup was a sitting finance minister, which could mean that once the Netherlands elects a new minister, Dijsselbloem will no longer head the euro's finance ministers meetings.

Nonetheless, a new precedent could be set. Some European officials have been discussed for some years the idea of a permanent president to the Eurogroup.

Johan Van Overtveldt, the Belgian finance minister, said Monday that he's "totally prepared" to discuss such possibility.

Furthermore, the Spanish minister, Luis de Guindos, who previously ran against Dijsselbloem to lead the group, denied that he is a candidate to the seat. His name resurfaced as a potential replacement to the Dutch man following the elections in the Hague.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, ahead of a scheduled meeting, de Guindos said that "in principle, he is not a candidate to anything."

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