Dijsselbloem: Martin Schulz ‘destructive’ for European future

President of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem warns against calls by German social-democrat leader Martin Schulz for more European integration. „We should not overcome the current differences between countries with diktats.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Eurogroup-president Jeroen Dijsselbloem after a meeting with the leaders of nineteen European countries about the latest austerity measures for Greece.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the Eurogroup (eurozone finance ministers), claims the calls by Martin Schulz for a United States of Europe are destructive for the future of the European Union. The Dutch socialist Dijsselbloem criticizes the proposals of fellow social democrat Schulz of the German SPD party in an interview with Dutch daily NRC.

Schulz is on the brink of forming a new German government with CDU’s Angela Merkel. Dijsselbloem has been a close ally of Merkel’s and her former finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble for the past five years, including during the Eurozone crisis.

On his departure as president of the Eurogroup, Dutchman Jeroen Dijsselbloem voices strong concerns about the EU’s future.

On December 7, Schulz said he desires „a new constitutional treaty to establish the United States of Europe. A convention shall draft this treaty in close cooperation with the civil society and the people. Its results will then be submitted to all member states. Any state that won’t ratify this treaty will automatically leave the EU.”

Dijsselbloem, however, says not many countries will remain in the Union if Schulz’s demands are implemented. „We should not overcome the current differences between countries with diktats.”

The Dutchman believes politicians pay too little attention to building a European Union that functions properly. „That is why Europe is so vulnerable.”

Also read the full interview with the Eurogroup-president (in Dutch): Dijsselbloem beschouwt de betiteling ‘technocraat’ als een geuzennaam

Dijsselbloem, who until October was the Netherlands’ Finance Minister, is set to leave as Eurogroup president in January.

Drawing further power toward the Brussels’ machine plays into the hands of populists, according to Dijsselbloem. The EU should not have decisive power over French pensions or Dutch labor policies, he says. “That would be precisely the wrong answer to populism. Populists are very aware that the welfare state is part of a country’s national identity. Those cannot be replaced by a European grand gesture.”

Another of Dijsselbloem’s concerns is the European Commission’s laxity towards member states that do not comply with budgetary rules of the Stability and Growth Pact. He blames European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for this development. „Juncker believes the European Commission should be more than just the bearer of bad news. This makes sense if you want to maintain public support for the European Union. But the Union must be a rule-based community.”

It will be critical for the survival of the European Union that its members ensure they can handle future economic shocks without international support, according to Dijsselbloem. „It is untenable to expect the EU to foot the bill whenever things go wrong. That would threaten the existence of the monetary union.” Dijsselbloem believes the current Union would not be able to politically absorb another blow given the magnitude of the 2010 debt crisis.

Dijsselbloem could have led the group of 19 European finance ministers for another six months, had his own government not recently dropped its support for his continued rule. He will have led the group for five years when he steps down in January. Schulz is meanwhile drafting Germany’s international policy as part of coalition negotiations with Angela Merkel’s CDU party.

    • Marike Stellinga