Reizniece-Ozola confirms Eurogroup bid

Latvia's Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola confirmed November 30 that she had submitted an application to become the new president of the Eurogroup, the club of countries within the European Union that have the euro as their currency, LETA reported.

The minister has submitted an application and a letter of motivation for the post, with the candidates due to be discussed at a Eurogroup meeting on December 4.

Reizniece-Ozola is the only woman among the four candidates  in the running, but her chances of obtaining the influential post may be weakened by the fact that while a Greens and Farmers Union member of Saeima in 2012 she actually voted to delay Latvia joining the eurozone (though supported the notion in subsequent votes), saying the government was "trying to jump onto the eurozone crisis train to remove this political responsibility from itself."

She said at the time that public support for the euro was "critically low" and suggested a public consultation on when the euro should be adopted. Nevertheless, euro accession went ahead as planned on January 1, 2014.

Since then her career has developed rapidly and she has won praise for the two budget packages she has steered through Saeima and taken the bold move to move Latvia towards a progressive tax regime.

The situation may also be complicated that Latvia's EU Commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, also has responsibility for the euro as part of his brief and member states may be wary of too much influence from one small member state over such a crucial issue as the euro.

Reizniece-Ozola told LETA that she had decided to apply for the position of Eurogroup leader, as she had heard many good words about Latvia as a model for respecting fiscal discipline in talks with colleagues from other countries. The Minister of Finance is also convinced that the candidacy for this influential post in the EU political map would strengthen the representation of the Baltic States.

The finance minister said that in the financial area, the EU faces many challenges, such as economic and monetary union, and others. "There is a lot to do," added Reizniece-Ozola.

She refrained from predicting the outcome of the vote. The Finance Minister admitted that the decision, most likely, would be taken by the large political groups in the European Parliament.

The current President of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands announced that he will step aside in January 2018.

If she did secure the Eurogroup job, it would continue a very rapid series of promotions for Reizniece-Ozola. She has been Latvian Finance Minister since February 2016, before that serving as Economics Minister from November 2014 and entered parliament for the first time with the Greens and Farmers Alliance in 2011.

She also made headlines by beating the world women's chess number one in a chess match - and her passion for the game would no doubt be a godsend for Europe's headline writers if she was head of the Eurogroup.

She also has a longstanding interest in the cosmos, listing among her qualifications the title of Executive Master of Business Administration from the International Space University in France and training at the NASA Space and Rocket Center in the USA. 

The Eurogroup is an informal body where ministers of euro area member states discuss matters of common concern shared in relation to sharing the euro as the single currency. It  focuses on the close coordination of economic policies. It usually meets once a month, on the eve of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting.

The election of the new president will take place on 4 December, by means of a simple majority vote, in line with protocol 14 of the EU treaty.

If none of the candidates receives at least 10 of the 19 votes by the Eurogroup members at the end of the first voting round, each candidate will be informed individually of the number of votes that he/she has received. Candidates will then have the opportunity to withdraw their application. Voting will take place until a simple majority is reached on one of the candidates.

The winner will be announced to the ministers at the end of the vote and presented at the Eurogroup press conference, immediately afterwards.

The new president will succeed Jeroen Dijsselbloem upon the expiry of his mandate, on 13 January 2018, for a period of 2.5 years.

The first Eurogroup meeting took place on 4 June 1998 in Luxembourg. The first president of the Eurogroup was Jean-Claude Juncker. Jeroen Dijsselbloem succeeded him in January 2013 and was re-elected in July 2015.

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