Portugal in uproar over Eurogroup president’s remarks about “alcohol and women”

“In a serious European Union, Mr Dijsselbloem would already have been fired”, prime minister António Costa told reporters last night as remarks by the Eurogroup president given to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sparked a storm of indignation, and the occasional burst of satire.

As almost everyone in Portugal by now knows, Dijsselbloem – questioned on the position of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble (a well-known critic of Portugal’s PS government) – said: “In the euro crisis, the countries of the North showed solidarity with the countries of the South. As a social democrat, solidarity for me is extremely important. But he who asks for it, has duties. I cannot spend all my money on alcohol and women and then ask for our help…”

While prime minister Costa dubbed the comments “unacceptable”, “xenophobic” “racist” and “sexist”, he has been featured in mock-up shots posted over social media apparently enjoying cocktails with a gaggle of giggling women in the backseat of a car.

Less parodied perhaps is Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva on an official visit to Washington who has simply called for Dijsselbloem’s dismissal.

Visiting Belgium this morning to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Brussels’ terror attacks President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa endorsed Santos Silva’s call, saying that when the minister spoke, “he spoke in the name of the Portuguese State”.

Dijsselbloem meantime has refused to retract or even qualify his remarks, which have been interpreted as including Greece, Cyprus and Ireland, along with Portugal and Spain.

Elsewhere, other European politicians have joined the furore.

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi posted on Facebook that Dijsselbloem had “missed an excellent opportunity to be silent. The sooner he resigns, the better”, while Bulgaria’s Sergei Stanishev – the head of the country’s PES party – said: “With just one sentence Dijsselbloem managed to insult and discredit so many people and spread division”.

The EuObserver said the Eurogroup chief’s position “was also called into question by the Social-Democratic leader of the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella” who said it was “not the first time Dijsselbloem had expressed “opinions, economic and political stances which are openly in contradiction with the line of the European progressive family”.

The European site stressed that Dijsselbloem’s mandate as Eurogroup chair officially runs till January 2018, though it may come to an end far sooner, due to the Labour Party he represents having suffered “heavy defeat” in last week’s Dutch legislative elections.

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