By Thomas Escritt and Anthony Deutsch
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The incoming Dutch finance minister said on Thursday he would push ahead with budget cuts at home and take a tough line on the euro zone crisis, ensuring policy continuity.
Labor MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem warned of tough times ahead given the new coalition government between his Labor party and Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals has already agreed to nearly 16 billion euros ($21 billion) in budget cuts.
"We have agreed to a tight budget and together we are going to implement it. It is a tough package that is going to require sacrifices from everyone in the Netherlands. I see it as my job to keep the finances on the right path," he told reporters.
The Netherlands, one of a handful of economies in the euro zone still holding a triple AAA credit rating, is expected to remain a firm ally of Germany, which opposes more aid to euro zone members struggling with high debt.
Dijsselbloem was among a number of prospective ministers summoned to The Hague for talks with Rutte, whose coalition government was expected to be sworn in on Monday.
"I don't expect any radical change in policy," Dirk Schoenmaker, dean at the Duisenberg School of Finance in Amsterdam, told Reuters.
Dijsselbloem, 46, graduated from Wageningen University, the most prestigious centre for agricultural studies in the Netherlands where farming is still central to national identity. According to a television reporter, he raised three pigs in his garden.
He is a close friend of Labor leader Diederik Samsom, a physicist, and the two were part of a small leftist clique known as the "red engineers" because they studied at technical universities - although both men have since moved toward the political centre and have signed up to a coalition agreement which is strong on budget discipline.
With Samsom staying in parliament rather than becoming a government minister, Dijsselbloem will be his point man in the cabinet, directing fiscal policy and closely involved in government policy on the euro zone crisis.
Indeed, Greece could provide an early test for the new coalition.
Rutte told voters during the campaign that Greece should not get a third bailout, whereas Labor's Samsom said he was prepared to allow Greece more time to meet its targets "if that is good for Europe".
But the difference between the coalition partners may be more one of style.
"The substance won't change, because the Netherlands' own interests have not changed, but the tone probably will change," said one diplomat who asked not to be identified.
"There may be more willingness to accommodate Greece, perhaps give it more time, and my guess is, Dijsselbloem could be a bit more understanding."
Nevertheless, the incoming minister is regarded as a straight talker who will not be afraid to ruffle feathers in negotiations over the EU budget.
He first 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 grouping, 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 said.
($1 = 0.7717 euros)
(Additional reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Writing by Sara Webb; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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