Mario Centeno odds-on to get job as ‘Eurogroup President’
Formal applications have been submitted by four candidates, all of whom want the chairmanship of the Eurogroup.
Finance ministers from Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Portugal all want to be the one to replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem as head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers.
Next week, the Eurogroup’s 19 members will vote on whom they want as their president and who can be trusted to chairs monthly finance minister meetings while heading the eurozone bailout fund which Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus have accessed during the financial crisis.
Finance ministers Dana Reizniece-Ozola of Latvia, Pierre Gramegna of Luxembourg, Peter Kazimir of Slovakia and Mario Centeno of Portugal all have submitted their formal applications and should hear the result on Monday.
The current Eurogroup chairman is Jeroen Dijsselbloem who steps down on January 13th next year after completing two terms since 2012. He no longer is a finance minister after the Dutch national elections earlier this year and should not really be in the Eurogroup at all.
The new president will be chosen by a simple majority of votes, so a winner needs to secure the backing of 10 finance ministers.
Portugal’s Mario Centeno has the backing of Italy, whose own finance minister Pier-Carlo Padoan wanted the job, but dropped out.
Centeno, the Ronaldo of Portuguese finance, has seen Portugal through its emergence from despondency and recession under Passos Coelho’s coalition government to the current, media-friendly uplands.
The former German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, called Centeno the “Ronaldo of EU finance ministers” as Portugal was exiting the EU’s disciplinary procedure for excessive deficit.
Many say Centeno has not contributed a great deal to Eurogroup deliberations and that he represents a country that had to be bailed out.
Slovakia’s Peter Kazimir has kept a tight rein on the country’s finances and probably has the backing of Germany and the Netherlands.
Pierre Gramegna is a centrist liberal and not likely to get the job, leaving Luxembourg which already holds the position of European Commission president in the frequently-sober form of Jean-Claude Juncker.
Dana Reizniece-Ozola is centre-right but has not been much of a force in Eurogroup meetings, nor has Centeno but he is still a favourite.
Portugal would be doing well if Centeno gets this job, adding to the current tsunami of positive PR spin about a booming economy and rising tax receipts when the truth reveals that a significant number of its citizens are close to starving.
A study by the Catholic University and the national food bank charity shows that in the past two years the percentage of people who cannot afford to eat every day has increased from 18% to 26%.
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