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Incoming Eurogroup president will bring new style to old problems

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Incoming Eurogroup president Mario Centeno (left)
Incoming Eurogroup president Mario Centeno (left)
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A week into his new job as Eurogroup president, Portugal's Mario Centeno will lead Monday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

Top of the agenda, financial assistance for Greece.

"Greece still has a pretty tough time to refinance in the markets," says Guntram Wolff, Director of the European economics think-tank Bruegel. "So there maybe a debate on either doing a precautionary program with Greece, giving some debt relief or, in extreme case, having a another (bailout) program, which I think it is unlikely but it is also a possibility".

Centeno will also address tax harmonization. It's a topic that's all the more urgent since an EU ruling that Ireland offered Apple illegal tax benefits.  The company has been ordered to pay an additional 13 billion euros in taxes. 

"We have no problem in some member state attracting new companies to settle," says German MEP Markus Ferber, who is Vice-Chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for the European People's Party. "But to deliver for a long period tax reductions, like we learned in the Apple case, I think that is unacceptable and I hope we get judgments by the European Court of Justice during this year and then we will have a new starting point for fairer competition and; then it will be, of course, a consolodiated corporate tax base".

These are both old issues but Centeno is expected to approach them with a new style, says the Financial Times' EU Affairs correspondent, Jim Brundsen. 

"The Eurogroup president is an exposed position in the sense that you have to go out there after these monthly meetings of finance ministers and effectively talk to the press and talk to the markets. With [former Eurogroup president] Jeroen Dijsselbloem that did produce some celebrated episodes. I think that with Centeno we are going to have someone that is actually much more cautious about communicating and also someone who is perhaps be less out front"

Once Germany has a new government in place, the group can discuss the calendar for eurozone reforms, starting with a banking union, common deposit insurance and transforming the European Stabilization Mechanism into a future European Monetary Fund.