Portuguese Finance Minister, Mário Centeno, was elected the new head of the Eurogroup, a prestigious decision making body, consisting of 19 Finance Ministers of all European Union countries.
The appointment was decided in a secret ballot at a finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday. He attained support and prestige in the European circles after his valuable participation in economic policy debates.
After two rounds of voting, Centeno won a clear victory defeating Luxembourg’s Pierre Gramegna, Slovakia’s Peter Kazimir and Latvia’s Dana Reizniece-Ozola.
The Eurogoup is currently lead by the Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who will to be replaced early next year. Centeno will take up his post on January 13. His term will last for two and a half years.
Centeno, who has eased up on austerity in Portugal by pushing more growth-oriented policies, will still keep his role as Portugal’s Finance Minister.
“It’s an honor because of the relevance of this group, of the quality of all my colleagues, of the importance of the job we have to carry over the coming couple of years,” Centeno said following his victory
“We are confident this will represent a turning point for the future development of the Eurozone and for the whole of Europe,” said Gianni Pittella, leader of the S&D Group in the European Parliament. “We are finally overcoming the era of blind and stupid austerity that has left behind even more poor and divided societies across Europe,” he concluded.
Portugal was one of the four Eurozone countries that had to be bailed out in the past few years when, in 2011, it needed a 78 billion-euro ($93 billion). In order to get the budget deficit down, as a condition the country was forced to enact austerity measures such as deep cuts in public spending along with higher taxes and lower pensions.
The Eurogroup holds monthly meetings, to discuss economic and financial affairs, taxation, customs and matters related to the European Central Bank. The body also defines strategies in the main economic areas and sets the agendas for Eurogroup meetings. Its main task is to ensure close coordination of economic policies among the member states with the goal of promoting stronger economic growth.
Mário Centeno, 50, graduated in Economics by ISEG-Technical University of Lisbon in 1990. He has two Masters – the first one in Applied Mathematics, by ISEG-UTL (1993), the second one in Economics, by Harvard University, USA (1998); and a PhD in Economics, by Harvard University, USA (2000). In 2015, he was appointed Portugal’s Finance Minister by Prime Minister António Costa.
Centeno joins a group of Portuguese notables holding international leadership roles, namely Former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres (1995-2002) the current Secretary-General of the United Nations; Vitor Constancio, Vice President on the European Central Bank Executive Board; and José Manuel Barroso, the 11th President of the European Commission (2004–201414) and the 115th Prime Minister of Portugal (2002–2004), currently the non-executive chairman at Goldman Sachs International.