Dutchman likely to head euro zone finance ministers: officials


Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is likely to be named the next chairman of euro zone finance ministers in January, taking over a key role in managing the bloc's debt crisis, officials said on Tuesday.

The Eurogroup of finance ministers is due to decide on January 21 who will succeed Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker at the helm of the euro zone's most powerful economic policymaking body.

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Dijsselbloem, 46, is on a tour of European capitals. On Monday he met European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, as well as his colleagues from Belgium and Luxembourg.

He is expected in Rome on Tuesday and Paris on Wednesday.

"It looks like it is moving in the direction of the Dutch," one senior euro zone policymaker said.

Dijsselbloem was appointed finance minister in the Netherlands in November after Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal party won a general election in September and formed a coalition with the Labour party.

Dijsselbloem has been a Labour member of parliament for most of the past 12 years.

His appointment to chair the Eurogroup had been informally agreed at the European Union summit in December, although leaders left the formal decision to finance ministers, as required by the EU treaty.

Eurogroup presidents are appointed for 2-1/2 year terms.

"This was de facto decided in the sidelines of the December European Council and no complications have arisen since. Dijsselbloem's super-rapid ascent shows once again that it is all about being in the right place at the right time...," a second euro zone official said.

The Eurogroup has been key to shaping the response of euro zone governments to market pressure over the three years of the sovereign debt crisis that started in Greece.

The Eurogroup decided on bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal and set up the 440 billion euro ($576 billion) EFSF temporary bailout fund as well as the 500 billion euro ESM permanent fund.

The role of the Eurogroup, and that of its president, will grow in the coming years as the euro zone heads towards more integrated economic policymaking, budget control, debt management and a banking union.

($1 = 0.7634 euros)

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Robin Emmott; editing by Rex Merrifield/Ruth Pitchford)