LISBON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, spoke of pride and increased responsibility as Portugal’s finance minister, Mario Centeno, was elected Eurogroup president on Monday.
“It’s an important and positive sign for the country, the government, the minister and, I would add, for Europe itself,” said Rebelo de Sousa.
But he was quick to remind Centeno of domestic priorities: “We need to maintain a firm, consistent, steady and reliable financial policy here in Portugal, because the finance minister has been elected president of the Eurogroup only because he’s finance minister of Portugal.”
Rebelo de Sousa was talking to reporters in Lisbon after Centeno had been confirmed as the new president of Eurogroup. Centeno was voted into office in the second round of voting in Brussels on Monday afternoon.
The appointment marks the first time Portugal has held a prominent European Union (EU) position since Jose Manuel Durao Barroso’s term as President of the European Commission ended in 2014.
The Eurogroup president represents the finance ministers of the EU’s 19 eurozone countries.
Centeno’s reputation within the EU has been forged stewarding Portugal’s exit from the EU’s excessive deficit procedure. Centeno took over as Portugal’s finance minister in November 2015, four years after Portugal required a 78 billion euro bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund.
Centeno becomes the third president of Eurogroup, after Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Junker (current President of the European Commission) and Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands. Dijsselbloem will step down in January having lost his job as finance minister at the last Dutch elections.
Centeno will begin his new role on Jan. 13 with a mandate that runs until 2020. The next general election in Portugal is not scheduled until October 2019.