The head of eurozone finance chiefs has hit back following his recent comments on troubled European countries, telling the media “it looks like I committed a war crime.” He insists that all he wanted to express was the idea that “solidarity is not charity.”
At the end of March, Jeroen Dijsselbloem had said that “I cannot spend all my money on liquor and women and then ask for your support,” referring to certain European nations asking for bailouts.
In comments published on Monday by De Volkskrant newspaper, the departing Dutch finance minister attempted to clarify his remarks, explaining that “fatigue may have played a role” in the wording of his initial comments as “it was three days after the [Dutch] election.”
The official also said that the backlash he received was just “anger at eight years of crisis policy” sweeping the EU.
“I would have rephrased it otherwise, probably. But it was my way of making clear that solidarity is not charity,” the official told the newspaper.
Dijsselbloem’s initial comments had sparked a wave of outrage from numerous European politicians, as well as the public.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa blasted Dijsselbloem’s statements as “racist, xenophobic and sexist,” while ex-Italian premier Matteo Renzi urged Dijsselbloem to resign.
“If he wants to offend Italy, he should do it at the sports bar under his house, not in his institutional role,” Renzi wrote angrily on his Facebook page.
Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a Spanish lawmaker in the European Parliament, lambasted the Eurogroup chairman’s remarks as “a racist and male-chauvinist insult to the southern countries, and their women,” Reuters reported.
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the eurozone official’s comments “adopt stereotypes that widen the chasm between north and south and lays out the carpet for extremist views, not to mention sexist overtones.”
The issue didn’t escape social networks, with a tweetstorm mocking and venting over the Dutch official.
#Dijsselbloem says Southern Europe people are inclined to alcohol consumption. I wonder how long this guys has been far from Northern EU
— Giberna (@FilippoBerna) 4 April 2017
#Dijsselbloem should apologize, not only to southern Europe, but to all women in the world for his remark.
— Karen Witsenburg (@KarenWitsenburg) 10 April 2017
In the latest interview, Dijsselbloem rejected the calls for his resignation, and urged the EU to pay more attention to real issues that the union is facing.
“It’s sad that we put so much time and energy into an interview while Greece is slipping into a new crisis,” Dijsselbloem said to De Volkskrant.
“[It’s] really annoying that so many people were so offended and angry. But the parliamentarians are trying to push me into a corner, as if I claimed that all Southern Europeans are big spenders. Nonsense!” he added.
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