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Germany, chairman laud Dutchman for Eurogroup job

Raf Casert, Associated Press

Luxembourg's Prime Minister and head of the eurogroup Jean-Claude Juncker, right, walks with Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem in Luxembourg on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. The outgoing leader of the group of finance ministers from the 17 European Union countries that use the euro is meeting with Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday, another indication the Dutch finance minister will take the post next week. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The outgoing leader of the group of finance ministers from the 17 EU countries that use the euro has endorsed Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem as a "good" candidate to take over his job next Monday.

On top of Friday's backing from Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Germany too had warm words for Dijsselbloem (DIE-sell-bloom) as a possible new leader of the Eurogroup, further building expectations that the Dutchman will be confirmed to lead the group of ministers which has been key in the eurozone's response to its financial crisis.

Juncker met with Dijsselbloem, who only became Dutch finance minister late last year, in Luxembourg Friday to give his successor tips and advice on how to run the group.

"The Dutch finance minister has presented his candidacy, which is a good one," said Juncker.

In Berlin, government spokeswoman Marianne Kothe said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has made it clear he thinks Dijsselbloem, a Labor Party politician, is a very competent candidate.

The Netherlands' AAA credit rating and longstanding support for German positions on the need for budget discipline made the Dutch candidate a logical choice for Angela Merkel.

Long-standing Eurogroup head Juncker said last year that he wants to step down. Dijsselbloem is the only established candidate for the job and the appointment is expected to be confirmed during the monthly meeting of eurogroup finance ministers on Monday.

Dijsselbloem, 46, called himself "a newcomer in this financial world," and his lack of experience could count against him. He was almost totally unknown outside political circles before his appointment in the Netherlands last fall.

Not everyone is pleased with Dijsselbloem's candidacy. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici criticized him for not having publicly expressed any "vision" for economic and fiscal policies in the euro area.

Dijsselbloem said he would soon do so.

"Well, I hope you will allow me to present my priorities Monday to my colleagues," he told reporters on Friday. "That is the right order and respectful to my colleagues."


Juergen Baetz contributed from Berlin, Toby Sterling from Amsterdam