BRUSSELS – The outgoing leader of the group of finance ministers from the 17 European Union countries that use the euro on Thursday gave the clearest indication yet that his successor will likely be Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told a European Parliament committee that "I will probably speak to my successor in a Benelux language about what I think he ought to be doing," referring to the three-country group of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Dijsselbloem's name to lead the so-called Eurogroup, the regular meetings of eurozone finance ministers, has been going round diplomatic circles for a few weeks. The minister has also just finished a tour of several eurozone countries to discuss current financial issues. Juncker said the appointment will be made Jan. 21.
The Eurogroup chief has a key role in negotiating financial policies in the currency union, which is still struggling to emerge from its financial crisis. The Eurogroup works with the region's other leaders — not just national leaders, but also the presidents of the EU and of the EU Commission, the EU's executive body.
Juncker on Thursday also revealed that the job to lead the eurozone's new bank supervision body would go to a French woman. "I am totally in favor of having a female representative," he said. "It will be done, and (she) will be French."
He did not elaborate but French media reports pointed to Daniele Nouy, a top official at the Banque de France.
The eurozone has come under pressure from the European Parliament to name a woman to a top job in financial policy after the latest appointment to the European Central Bank left its extended leadership all male.
Tapping Nouy to lead the bank supervisor could be a key part of a deal under which the French agree to Dijsselbloem's appointment as eurozone chief.
A Labor Party politician, Jeroen Dijsselbloem would be a surprise pick to lead the Eurogroup. Dijsselbloem, 46, took his first executive job in national government only late last year as finance minister.
Last month, he indicated he would be willing to take on the job, having attended many Eurogroup meetings already.
"I've been in Brussels about two days per week in the past five weeks, with all those late night sessions, and I'm still alive" he said. "So that burden is apparently bearable."
Toby Sterling contributed from Amsterdam.