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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The chairman of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem did not criticise any particular country or region, his spokesman said after Dijsselbloem's remarks, seen as negative towards southern Europe, sparked calls for his resignation.
Dijsselbloem told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in an interview published on March 20 that northern European countries showed solidarity with countries in crisis during the sovereign debt crisis started in 2010 by Greece.
"As a Social Democrat, I believe solidarity is extremely important. But whoever demands it, also has obligations. I can't spend all my money on booze and women and then ask you for your support. This principle holds at personal, local, national and even European levels," he told the paper.
The remarks drew sharp criticism in Spain and Italy and the Portuguese prime minister called for Dijsselbloem's resignation, saying his remarks were "racist, xenophobic and sexist".
But Dijsselbloem's spokesman said his words were misinterpreted.
"Dijsselbloem didn't refer to any country or group of countries. His message is meant for all eurozone countries: solidarity comes with obligations. We have to stick to our budget rules. This is important at personal, national and international level," he said.
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek