Dijsselbloem not to step down over ‘booze and women’ remark

Portuguese leader calls for Eurogroup chief to resign over ‘xenophobic’ interview

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem expressed regret on Wednesday for his German newspaper "booze and women" interview, but said he would not step down after the Portuguese prime minister called for his resignation over what he called "xenophobic" remarks.

Mr Dijsselbloem told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in an interview published on March 20th that northern European countries showed solidarity with countries in crisis during the sovereign debt crisis started in 2010 by Greece.

“As a Social Democrat I believe solidarity is extremely important. But whoever demands it also has obligations. I can’t spend all my money on booze and women, and then ask you for your support. This principle holds at personal, local, national and even European levels,” he told the paper.

Mr Dijsselbloem’s remarks, seen as negative towards southern Europe, sparked calls for his resignation. The remarks drew particularly sharp criticism in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

“I regret it if one is offended by the remark,” Mr Dijsselbloem said on Wednesday. “It was direct, and can be explained from strict Dutch, Calvinistic culture, with Dutch directness,” he added.

Another lesson

“I understand that this is not always well understood and appreciated elsewhere in Europe. That is another lesson I take on board,” he said.

“At the same time I think I am appreciated for keeping my own style, and that I with some strictness I address all ministers, and I have to be strict sometimes. And, yes, my style is direct, and again if people take offence in that I am sorry of course. I have no intention to step down.”

Earlier, Portugal’s prime minister António Costa described the “booze and women” comments as “absolutely unacceptable” and “very dangerous”.

Mr Costa said Mr Dijsselbloem’s remarks were dangerous because they showed another face of populism, expressed by people“dressed in sheep’s clothing” but making comments that were “racist, xenophobic and sexist”.

The Dutch government, meanwhile, said it “remains firmly behind” Mr Dijsselbloem. – Reuters/Copyright The Financial Times Limited