Labor MP Dijsselbloem set to be next Dutch finance minister

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Jeroen Dijsselbloem looked set to become the next Dutch finance minister after Prime Minister Mark Rutte summoned the Labor MP, who is expected to back austerity at home and a tough line on euro zone deficit sinners, to a meeting on Thursday.

Dijsselbloem, 46, has been widely tipped to succeed Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager after Rutte’s Liberals reached a coalition agreement with the Labor Party this week.

Under the new government the Netherlands, one of a handful of economies in the euro zone still rated AAA, is expected to remain a firm ally of Germany, which opposes more aid to euro zone members struggling with high debt.

“I don’t expect any radical change in policy,” Dirk Schoenmaker, Dean at the Duisenberg School of Finance in Amsterdam, told Reuters.

Rutte has summoned candidates for the various cabinet posts to meetings, the press office for the new governing coalition said in a statement. Dijsselbloem could not be reached for comment.

Dijsselbloem, who studied agricultural economics, is a close friend of Labor leader Diederik Samsom and likely to be the most influential Labor politician in the cabinet, directing fiscal policy and closely involved in government policy on the euro zone crisis.

De Jager proved a surprisingly popular politician in the Netherlands, where his blunt manner and tough talk on Greece and the other troubled euro zone countries went down well with a public that has shown increasing signs of bailout fatigue.

He was often on television, even appearing on chat shows to talk about the euro zone crisis and need for tough budget cuts.

However, his Christian Democrat Party lost heavily in the parliamentary election on September 12, and Rutte’s Liberal Party formed a new coalition with the pro-European Labor Party.

Dijsselbloem, by contrast, attracted public attention when he chaired a review of education policy and spoke out against his own party’s education policies over the decades.

Boris van der Ham, who served with Dijsselbloem on the parliamentary commission into education, described him as a sharp thinker with an ordered mind.

“He’s very approachable personally, but he’s also a very strict person,” said van der Ham, who is from a different political party, the centrist D66 party.

“He was very critical about the role the Labor Party had played in education reforms, which was remarkable, because it’s not common to criticize your own party,” van der Ham added.

That blunt or direct approach might serve him well when negotiating in Brussels, van der Ham said, adding that Dijsselbloem would be able to take a “strict” line in negotiations in Brussels over the European Union’s budget.

(Additional reporting by Gilbert Kreijger- Editing by Jon Boyle)

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