The end of an era in Europe
Published 12/02/2013 | 04:00
"THIS is the end, beautiful friend." The Doors lyrics floated across The Punt's mind yesterday as the Brussels press corps watched the now former Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker head off to enjoy a well-deserved dinner in his honour.
Mr Juncker, who has presided over the Eurogroup since 2005, is not everybody's cup of tea. His penchant for sarcastic responses to what seem reasonable questions can be off-putting, but his wise-cracking generally gets a laugh from the band of hacks and defuses any tension in a situation, which is probably what he is trying to do.
At 59, the Luxembourg leader and prime minister had to use all his experience to cajole, bully and generally force the euro finance ministers to take action as the crisis deepened in recent years. The European forces moved slowly, but eventually they did move. For all the problems, which were partly due to European inaction, the single currency is still intact and the chances of a country leaving seem to have receded sharply.
Yesterday's meeting was the first to be chaired by his successor, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijessilbloem. He faces an immensely difficult task. Having only taken on the Dutch finance portfolio in November, the 46-year-old is much greener than Mr Juncker and it remains to be seen if he has his predecessor's skill for getting things done.
He has already been weakened by Spain's refusal to back his appointment. He'll have to quickly learn some of the political nous Mr Juncker had accumulated.