For all the stereotypes of southern Europeans as hotheaded profligate lushes, indebted eurozone countries from Portugal to Greece have pretty fully accepted the austerity imposed upon them from their creditors to the north. But the forces of the Troika may have pushed their luck one meter too far with Jeroen Dijsselbloem's latest excoriation of some of Europe's most beloved traditions. Discussing bailouts and belt-tightening on a Spanish radio show, the head of eurozone finance ministers remarked:
During the crisis of the euro, the countries of the North have shown solidarity with the countries affected by the crisis. As a Social Democrat, I attribute exceptional importance to solidarity. [But] you also have obligations. You can not spend all the money on drinks and women and then ask for help.
Dijsselbloem's impolitic comments immediately drew backlash from the usual suspects. An Italian socialist called the remarks “discriminatory arguments.” A Spanish lawmaker, holding no punches: “Maybe it is funny for you, but I don’t think it is.” Portugal's foreign minister said he should resign. Strangely, no one has yet made a counterargument concerning the stimulative potential of state-subsidized gentlemen's clubs.
Despite all the furor, the Dutchman held firm: “Don’t be offended, it is not about one country but about all our countries.”
If you take Dijsselbloem's comments to their logical conclusion, however, it's not the ordinary vice-loving citizens of debt-shackled European nations in his crosshairs – it's bankers. Who, after all, got the majority of bailout funds availed to Greece? Private banks. It's Deutsche Bank and company – and any who enjoy the perks of financial sector employment – who should be crying foul over Dijsselbloem's blunt talk. And given how bonuses have shaken out over there of late, that's no laughing matter.