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Eurogroup chief under fire for saying southern Europeans 'spent their money on drinks and women'

Jeroen Dijsselbloem had said: “I can’t spend all my money on drinks and women and then ask for help.”

Image: Shutterstock/Konstantin Chagin

REMARKS BY EUROGROUP chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem that southern countries blew money on drinks and women were unacceptably “racist and sexist”, EU Parliament head Antonio Tajani told AFP.

“To say these racist and sexist comments is wrong, for me it’s unacceptable, especially when one has an important role to play,” Tajani, an Italian, said in an interview in Brussels.

Tajani however stopped short of calling for Dutch finance minister Dijsselbloem to resign as head of the 19-country eurozone, as other European figures have done including Portugal’s premier.

“It’s not me who decides who should be president of the Eurogroup. I personally wouldn’t use a phrase like this,” said Tajani, who took over as European Parliament President from Germany’s Martin Schulz in January.

“But I can say that certain statements are unacceptable. Someone in a key role should unify. As a southern European, I always think of northern Europeans as friends,” he said.

“These aren’t enemies, they are Europeans like me.”

Dijsselbloem expressed regret earlier but refused to step down over his comments in an interview with a German newspaper published on Monday.

He had said that while committing to financial rescues for poorer nations in the eurozone was important, “I can’t spend all my money on drinks and women and then ask for help.”

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The row was a top story on Italian news bulletins as commentators rounded on a politician already regarded with suspicion because of his views, seen as hawkish, on the application of EU budget rules to Italy.

“One would have thought that in Amsterdam they know a thing or two about pubs and brothels, even spending their loose change in their coffee shops,” the Corriere della Sera daily said in a reference to the Netherlands’ legal cannabis cafes.

© – AFP, 2017

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