Race for EU’s top jobs about to heat up

As Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s turbulent reign over eurozone’s finance ministers’ meetings comes to an end, horse-trading for his succession between the bloc’s countries and political groups is about to heat up.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Following a nearly five-year stint at the helm of the Eurogroup, Mr Dijsselbloem’s future has been in flux since March, when his party’s electoral defeat threw the remainder of his tenure into question.

Still, helped by lengthy coalition talks in the Hague, the absence of an obvious successor and his widely appreciated deal-brokering skills, the Dutchman has managed to hold on to his post until January when his term expires.

Elections for his successor will now take place on December 4. While no minister has officially thrown their hat into the ring, speculation is ripe over potential hopefuls, including France’s Bruno Le Maire, Portugal’s Mario Centeno, Spain’s Luis de Guindos, Slovakia’s Peter Kazimir, and Luxembourg’s Pierre Gramegna.

Mr Dijsselbloem’s succession is important not just for the role he holds, but also because of the domino effect it will have on the potential candidates to fill top jobs throughout the EU as senior posts at the ECB and European Commission free up in the next two years.

Top roles at European institutions have been traditionally divided along both geographical and political lines — between North and South, East and West, big and small countries, and between conservatives, social democrats and liberals.

Spain’s Mr de Guindos, who will be the longest-standing member of the group once Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble leaves, is seen by some of his colleagues as one of the most qualified candidates to succeed Mr Dijsselbloem.

That may not be his main goal, however, as several EU officials say that he is eyeing the job of ECB vice president to succeed Vitor Costancio, whose term expires in mid-2018.

If Mr de Guindos assumes the second most senior job at the ECB, this could pave the way for a Northern European to succeed president Mario Draghi when his term expires in 2019, as a repeat of two Southern Europeans running the bloc’s central bank is seen as unlikely. While some countries are wary of this prospect, Mr de Guindos is still seen as the frontrunner for Mr Costancio’s job, in a process due to start in January.

With Mr de Guindos out of the running for the Eurogroup chairmanship, chances of success are higher for hopefuls from the centre-left including Slovakia’s Mr Kazimir and Portugal’s Mr Centeno.

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