LISBON Portugal’s Prime Minister demanded the resignation of eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Wednesday over remarks he called “racist, xenophobic and sexist” and said Europe would only be credible once he left.
Dijsselbloem suggested in an interview at the weekend with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that southern European countries that received EU financial aid were spending their money “on booze and women”.
“Europe will only be credible as a common project on the day when Mr. Dijsselbloem stops being head of the eurogroup and apologises clearly to all the countries and peoples that were profoundly offended by his remarks,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters.
Dijsselbloem was not immediately available for a comment.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva made similar comments during a visit to Washington on Tuesday.
“The chairman does not have the conditions to remain as the head of eurogroup,” a statement posted on the government website late on Tuesday cited as saying.
Dijsselbloem’s comments “are very unfortunate, and, from the Portuguese point of view, absolutely unacceptable”, the minister said, adding also that many members of the European Parliament shared the view.
Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons labelled the remarks “a racist and male-chauvinist insult to the southern countries, and their women”, calling for Dijsselbloem to resign.
Spain has long campaigned to put its Finance Minister Luis De Guindos in charge of eurogroup.
The pressure on Dijsselbloem, whose term as eurogroup chairman ends in January, comes as euro zone finance ministers are due to discuss whether he can complete his term after his party lost heavily at the Dutch elections.
In the interview, Dijsselbloem said that the wealthier northern European countries showed solidarity with the south during the euro crisis in 2010-2013 by giving them financial aid.
“But whoever demands it, also has obligations. I can’t spend all my money on booze and women and then ask you for your support. This principle holds at personal, local, national and even European levels,” he was quoted as saying.
Santos Silva called it “a bad joke using inconceivable terms” and said it was disrespectful towards the effort of the Portuguese people who were subjected to years of painful austerity under the terms of a 2011-14 EU/IMF bailout.
(Reporting By Andrei Khalip and Axel Bugge; Editing by Tom Heneghan)