Dijsselbloem likely to be next Commission finance chief

French economy minister Pierre Moscovici believed to be other main candidate

Italian Socialist vice-president of the Parliament Gianni Pittella (left) and European Peoples’ Party group candidate designate for the presidency of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker at the start of a meeting with political group of the parliament in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Julien Warnand

Italian Socialist vice-president of the Parliament Gianni Pittella (left) and European Peoples’ Party group candidate designate for the presidency of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker at the start of a meeting with political group of the parliament in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Julien Warnand

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:00

There is increasing expectation that Jeroen Dijsselbloem may be named the European Commission’s next finance chief in the coming weeks, as Jean-Claude Juncker prepares to assign commissionerships to the EU’s 28 member states.

Speaking following his first appearance before the European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group in Brussels yesterday, Mr Juncker told the centre-left group that Olli Rehn’s successor as economics and monetary affairs commissioner is likely to be a socialist.

Asked if he was interested in the position following the Eurogroup meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday evening, the Dutch finance minister who is a member of the centre-left Labour Party in the Netherlands did not rule out the possible appointment.

“I already have a job thank you very much. Actually I have two and I am actually liking the combinations and that’s all I can say . . . What the future may bring we will wait and see.”

French economy minister Pierre Moscovici is believed to be the other main candidate for the post, though France may also be interested in retaining the internal markets portfolio.

The appointment of a commissioner from a centre-left party could be a welcome boost to Italy, which has been calling for a reappraisal of European fiscal policy. MEPs from Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party are by far the largest party in the European Parliament’s second-largest Socialist and Democratic group, with Roberto Gualtieri appointed last week as chair of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee.

Talk of merging the post of Eurogroup chairman, currently held by Mr Dijsselbloem, and the economics commissionership has subsided in recent weeks.

Yesterday, Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan reiterated calls to examine growth-enhancing measures in European economic policy at the Ecofin meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. But he declined to comment on Mr Renzi’s comments earlier in the day that spending on digital infrastructure should not be included in budget deficit calculations. Speaking in Venice Mr Renzi said, “Every euro spent in digital infrastructures must be out of the box.”

Italian concerns

Mr Padoan, a former chief OECD economist who served as an adviser to Italian prime ministers over a decade ago, was drafted into the government by Mr Renzi in February.

Mr Padoan said yesterday discussions were just beginning about how to exploit the flexibility built in to the Stability and Growth Pact, but declined to spell out what measures may be sought. “We have a system of rules which already allows for flexibility, and we are beginning discussions what in practice that means,” he said. The rules were “well-equipped to boost growth and jobs.”

Rome’s calls for flexibility continued to meet resistance from EU member states yesterday, with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble telling his counterparts structural reforms are “not an excuse or alternative for ongoing fiscal consolidation.”