Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker
President of the European Commission
Assumed office
1 November 2014
Vice President Frans Timmermans
Preceded by José Manuel Barroso
Prime Minister of Luxembourg
In office
20 January 1995  4 December 2013
Monarch Jean
Deputy Jacques Poos
Lydie Polfer
Jean Asselborn
Preceded by Jacques Santer
Succeeded by Xavier Bettel
Minister for the Treasury
In office
23 July 2009  4 December 2013
Preceded by Luc Frieden
Succeeded by Vacant
Minister for Finances
In office
14 July 1989  23 July 2009
Prime Minister Jacques Santer
Preceded by Jacques Santer
Succeeded by Luc Frieden
Minister for Work and Employment
In office
20 July 1984  7 August 1999
Prime Minister Jacques Santer
Preceded by Jacques Santer
Succeeded by François Biltgen
Personal details
Born (1954-12-09) 9 December 1954
Redange, Luxembourg
Political party Christian Social People's Party
Spouse(s) Christiane Frising
Alma mater University of Strasbourg
Website Official website

Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourgish pronunciation: [ʒ̊ɑ̃ːkloːd ˈjʊŋ.kɐ]; born 9 December 1954) is a Luxembourgish and European politician who has been President of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (EU), since 2014. Previously Juncker was Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013, as well as Minister for Finances from 1989 to 2009. He was the longest-serving head of any national government in the EU, and one of the longest-serving democratically elected leaders in the world, by the time he left office,[1] his tenure encompassing the height of the European financial and sovereign debt crisis. From 2005 to 2013 Juncker served as the first permanent President of the Eurogroup.

The European People's Party (EPP) had Juncker as its lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat, for the presidency of the Commission in the 2014 elections. The EPP won 220 out of 751 seats in the parliament. On 27 June the European Council officially nominated Juncker for the position,[2][3][4] and on 15 July the European Parliament elected him with a majority of 422 votes from a total of 729 cast.[5] He succeeded Jose Manuel Barroso as president on 1 November 2014.[6] Juncker stated that his priorities would be the creation of a digital single market, the development of an EU energy union, the negotiation of the Transatlantic trade agreement, the continued reform of the economic and monetary union—with the social dimension in mind—and a "targeted fiscal capacity" for the euro area, as well as to negotiate a new deal with Britain.[7] During his leadership, Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Juncker is the first president that prior to the election has campaigned as a candidate for the position, a process introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon.

Early life and education

Juncker was born in Redange, Luxembourg, and spent most of his childhood in Belvaux. Juncker studied at the Roman Catholic "école apostolique" (secondary school) at Clairefontaine on the edge of Arlon in Belgium before returning to Luxembourg to study for his Baccalaureate at the Lycée Michel Rodange. He joined the Christian Social People's Party in 1974.[8] Juncker went on to study law at the University of Strasbourg, graduating with a Masters in Law in 1979. Although he was subsequently sworn into the Luxembourg Bar Council in 1980, he never practised as a lawyer.

Aside from his native language, Luxembourgish, Juncker is fluent in French, German, and English.[9]

Career in Luxembourgish politics

Early years

Following Juncker's graduation from the University of Strasbourg, he was appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary. He later won election to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in 1984 and was immediately appointed to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Jacques Santer as Minister of Labour.[8] This led to his being given a chairman's role at a number of meetings of the Council of the European Communities, where Juncker's pro-Europe credentials first emerged.

Shortly before the 1989 election Juncker was seriously injured in a serious road accident, spending two weeks in a coma.[8] He nonetheless recovered in time to be returned to the Chamber of Deputies once more, after which he was promoted to become Minister for Finance, a post traditionally seen as a rite of passage to the premiership of the country. His eventual promotion to Prime Minister seemed at this time inevitable, with political commentators concluding that Santer was grooming Juncker as his successor. Juncker at this time also accepted the position of Luxembourg's representative on the 188-member board of Governors of the World Bank.[8]

Juncker's second election to Parliament saw him gain prominence within the European Union; Juncker chaired the Council of Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN), becoming a key architect of the Maastricht Treaty. Juncker was largely responsible for clauses on Economic and Monetary Union, the process that would eventually give rise to the Euro, and was himself a signatory to the Treaty in 1992, by which time he had taken over as parliamentary leader of the Christian Social People's Party.[8]

Juncker was re-elected to the Chamber in 1994, maintaining his ministerial role. With Santer ready to be nominated as the next President of the European Commission, it was only six months later that Grand Duke Jean approved the appointment of Juncker as Prime Minister on 20 January 1995, as part of a coalition with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party. Juncker relinquished his post at the World Bank at this time, but maintained his position as Minister for Finance.[8]


Juncker with the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on 27 June 2012

Juncker's first term as Prime Minister was focused on an economic platform of international bilateral ties to improve Luxembourg's profile abroad, which included a number of official visits abroad. During one such visit, to Dublin in December 1996, Juncker successfully mediated a dispute over his own EU Economic and Monetary Union policy between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The press dubbed Juncker the "Hero of Dublin" for achieving an unlikely consensus between the two.[10]

1997 brought the rotating Presidency of the European Council to Luxembourg, during which time Juncker championed the cause of social integration in Europe, along with constituting the so-called "Luxembourg Process" for integrated European policy against unemployment. He also instigated the "Euro 11", an informal group of European finance ministers for matters regarding his Economic and Monetary Union ideals. For all of these initiatives, he was honoured with the Vision for Europe Award in 1998.[11]

Juncker with Chinese President Hu Jintao on 31 May 2003

Juncker succeeded in winning another term as Prime Minister in the 1999 election, although the coalition with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party was broken in favour of one with the Democratic Party. After the 2004 election, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party became the second largest party again, and Juncker again formed a coalition with them.[8]

In 2005, Juncker inherited a second term as President of the European Council. Shortly after the expiration of his term came Luxembourg's referendum on ratification, and Juncker staked his political career on its success, promising to resign if the referendum failed. The final result was a 56.5% Yes vote on an 88% turnout. His continued allegiance to European ideals earned him the 2006 Karlspreis. In 2009, he denounced the lifting of the excommunication of controversial Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the Society of Saint Pius X.[12]

Juncker with French Prime Minister François Fillon on 29 October 2009

On 19 November 2012, RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg aired a story alleging that the former head of the State Intelligence Service (SREL), Marco Mille, had used a wristwatch to covertly record a confidential conversation with Juncker in 2008.[13][14] According to the report, although Juncker had later found out about the recording, he took no action against Mille and allowed him to leave the service in 2010 for a position with Siemens.[13][15] A transcript of the conversation was published by D'Lëtzebuerger Land, which highlighted the disorganised state of the secret service, mentioned links between Grand Duke Henri and MI6 and referred to the "Bommeleeër" scandal.[16][17] On 4 December 2012, the Chamber of Deputies voted to set up a Parliamentary Inquiry into allegations of SREL misconduct including the illegal bugging of politicians, purchase of cars for private use and allegations of taking payments and favours in exchange for access to officials.[18][19] The inquiry heard from witnesses who claimed that SREL had conducted six or seven illegal wiretapping operations between 2007 and 2009, as well as covert operations in Iraq, Cuba and Libya.[20][21] The report concluded that Juncker had to bear political responsibility for SREL's activities, that he had been deficient in his control over the service and that he had failed to report all of the service's irregularities to the enquiry commission.[19][22] Juncker himself denied wrongdoing.[23]

After a seven-hour debate in the Chamber of Deputies on 10 July, the withdrawal of support from the Christian Social People's Party's coalition partner, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP), forced Juncker to agree to new elections.[24] Juncker tendered his resignation to the Grand Duke on 11 July.[19] Alex Bodry, President of LSAP and Chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry into SREL, declared his lack of confidence in Juncker, saying: "We invite the prime minister to take full political responsibility in this context and ask the government to intervene with the head of state to clear the path for new elections."[23] As of 11 July 2013 the Grand Duke had not made public any decision when to dissolve the legislature and call a new election.[19] Juncker has stated he would be keen to lead his party in a forthcoming election if they wish for him to do so.[25] After the election, Juncker was succeeded on 4 December 2013 by Xavier Bettel.[26][27]

Career in European politics

Presidency of the Eurogroup

In 2004, the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers decided to replace the rotating chairmanship with a permanent president. Juncker was appointed as the first permanent president and assumed the chair on 1 January 2005. He was re-appointed for a second term in September 2006.[28] Under the Lisbon Treaty, this system was formalised and Juncker was confirmed for another term.[29] Juncker stepped down on 21 January 2013, when he was succeeded by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

During his period as "Mr. Euro", the group was instrumental in negotiating and supervising bailout packages for the countries that faced bankruptcy: Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus.[30]

Monetary policy is a serious issue. We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup. [...] The same applies to economic and monetary policies in the Union. If we indicate possible decisions, we are fuelling speculations on the financial markets and we are throwing in misery mainly the people we are trying to safeguard from this. [...] I'm ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious, [...] I am for secret, dark debates.
Juncker, on the constraints to openness from market actors during the financial crisis, 20 April 2011.[31] It should be noted that this comment has been considered a quip.[32]

Juncker was also an outspoken proponent of enhanced internal co-operation and increased international representation of the group.[33]

In a debate in 2011, during the height of the eurozone crisis, Juncker responded to a conference-goer's suggestion to increase the openness of the strategy discussions in the eurogroup. He thereby stated he believed the ongoing discussions needed to be kept confidential to prevent markets from betting against troubled countries and putting "millions of people at risk", and that he had not been used to such level of secrecy.

When it becomes serious, you have to lie.
Juncker when asked about Greece's economic crisis.[31][34]

He further stated that when asked by a journalist to comment on those meetings he had had to lie, making clear it went against his personal moral conviction as a Catholic.[35][36]

Presidency of the Commission

Main article: Juncker Commission
Juncker delivering a speech at the election congress of the People's Party in March 2014

For the first time in 2014, the President of the European Commission is being elected under the new provisions established with the Treaty of Lisbon, which had entered into force after the 2009 Elections to the European Parliament, on 1 December 2009.

Primary election

The campaign bus of Jean-Claude Juncker used for the 2014 election

All factions of the parliament, except the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group (EFD), entered a lead candidate, or spitzenkandidat, each in the election campaign. At the Election Congress of the European People's Party (EPP), held in Dublin on 6–7 March, Jean-Claude Juncker was elected the party's lead candidate for President of the Commission, defeating Michel Barnier. The congress also adopted the EPP election manifesto.[37][38]

Election campaign

In the main debate between the candidates, transmitted live throughout Europe on 16 May via the European Broadcasting Union, all candidates agreed that it would be unacceptable if the European Council would propose someone as Commission President who had not publicly campaigned for the position ahead of the election.[39]

In the elections, held 22–25 May, the EPP won the most parliamentary seats of all parties (221 of 751), but short of a majority in its own right.[40]

Institutional approval

On 27 May, the leaders of five of the seven political groups of the parliament issued a statement that Jean-Claude Juncker, being the lead candidate of the party which won a plurality of the seats, should be given the first attempt to form the required majority to be elected Commission President. Only the ECR and EFD disagreed to this process.[41][42]

Juncker with Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatseniuk, EPP summit in Brussels, 20 March 2014

Later on 27 May, the European Council gave its president, Herman van Rompuy, the mandate to start consultations with the group leaders in the European Parliament to identify the best possible candidate. Having less influence over the appointment than under pre-Lisbon law, the Council instead made use of its right to set the strategic priorities, and included discussions with Parliament leaders and Council members alike for a strategic agenda for the upcoming period in Rompuy's mandate.[43]

During the consultations, Juncker and the EPP agreed to cooperation with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second largest group in the new parliament, as well as secured the backing of all but two member state leaders. In return for their support, the centre-left group and state leaders secured promises of a shift in focus away from austerity towards growth and job creation for the coming period, as well as promises of some of the top jobs.[44][45][46][47]

Juncker and Donald Tusk, EPP summit in Poznań, 25 April 2014

The European Council officially proposed Juncker to Parliament as candidate for the Presidency on 27 June, together with a strategic agenda setting out policy priorities for the upcoming Commission mandate period.[48]

For the first time the nomination was not by consensus, but the European Council voted 26-2 to propose Juncker for the position. Voting against were British PM David Cameron (Conservative Party / ECR) and Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán (Fidesz / EPP), both of whom had frequently opposed Juncker during the election process. Prior to the vote, various media had reported the heads of government of Sweden, Netherlands and Germany were also having similar concerns regarding either the candidate himself, or the way the nomination process was conducted.[49][50] This was however never confirmed by the politicians in question.

Once Juncker had been nominated by the Council he started visiting all of the political groups of the European Parliament in order to explain his visions as well as gain their support in order to get appointed as Commission President. The purpose was also to show that he had understood some criticism levelled by Eurosceptics in Brussels. This was demonstrated when the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg told the ECR lawmakers that "[d]espite what you may read in the British press, I do not want a United States of Europe," as well as "I do not believe that Europe can be constructed against the nation state."[51]

On 15 July, Juncker presented his political programme to the European Parliament in plenary. Following a debate, the MEPs appointed Juncker to the position of Commission President with 422 votes in favour, well over the 376 required, and 250 votes against.[52]


In early November 2014, just days after becoming head of the commission, Juncker was hit by media disclosures—derived from a document leak known as LuxLeaks—that Luxembourg under his premiership had turned into a major European centre of corporate tax avoidance. With the aid of the Luxembourg government, companies transferred tax liability for many billions of euros to Luxembourg, where the income was taxed at a fraction of 1%. Juncker, who in a speech in Brussels in July 2014 promised to "try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape", was sharply criticized following the leaks.[53] A subsequent motion of censure in the European parliament was brought against Juncker over his role in the tax avoidance schemes. The motion was defeated by a large majority.[54]

On 22 May 2015, at the EU summit in Riga, Latvia, Juncker, alongside EU President Donald Tusk and Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma, greeted EU leaders in a way unusual to diplomacy. For instance he tried to convince the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to wear a tie by offering his own piece.[55] He also remarked on Karl-Heinz Lambertz being overweight and patted his belly. Juncker slapped his former deputy, the Luxembourgish Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, as well as kissed Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel's bald head.[56] But the most stormy incident happened when Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán arrived and Juncker addressed him, using the word "dictator", following it with a warm handshake and a slap on the cheek.[57] Later spokesperson Margaritis Schinas called the event as only a "joke". "Juncker is known for his very informal style", he said and added "I wouldn’t make anything else out of this".[58]

Awards and decorations

National honours

Academic and other distinctions

See also


  1. McDonald-Gibson, Charlotte (11 July 2013). "Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker calls snap elections amid secret service scandal – risking longest held office for any EU leader". The Independent. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  2. "Results of the 2014 European elections". European Parliament. 28 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  3. "EU backs Juncker to head Commission". BBC. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  4. "EU leaders give thumbs up to Juncker, Britain isolated". EurActiv. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  5. European Commission (15 July 2014), "A new start for Europe: My agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change", Press release, retrieved 15 July 2014
  6. "MEPs elect Jean-Claude Juncker to head EU Commission", BBC News, 15 July 2014, retrieved 15 July 2014
  7. "MY PRIORITIES". Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Jean-Claude Juncker". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  9. RP - "Juncker wird Spitzenkandidat der Konservativen" (07.03.2014)
  10. "Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker to Present Distinguished Lecture at Pitt April 10". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  11. "Jean-Claude Juncker as Head of the EPP". democraticunion. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  12. "Réaction de Jean-Claude Juncker à la réhabilitation par le pape d'un évêque négationniste". Retrieved 20 June 2013.
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  14. Neuger, James (11 July 2013). "Secrets and Lies in Luxembourg". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  15. "Juncker tapped by secret service in 2008". Luxemburger Wort. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  16. "Secret recording alleges ties between Grand Duke and British Secret Service". Luxemburger Wort. 30 November 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  17. "Wer bespitzelte Juncker und Henri?". Tageblatt (in German). 30 November 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  18. "Parliament to launch enquiry into secret service activities". Luxemburger Wort. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  19. 1 2 3 4 "Luxembourg PM Juncker offers government resignation". BBC News. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  20. "SREL director reveals illegal wire tapping". Luxemburger Wort. 13 January 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  21. Robinson, Frances (10 July 2013). "Luxembourg Juncker: Secret Service Wasn't My Top Priority". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  22. "Enquiry commission to debate Juncker's responsibility in secret service scandal". Luxemburger Wort. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
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  24. "Luxembourg Prime Minister Juncker calls for new elections amid scandal". Deutsche Welle. 10 July 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  25. Bodoni, Stephanie (11 July 2013). "Juncker Hands Fate to Luxembourg Ruler as Coalition Fails". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  26. "Xavier Bettel". Ville de Luxembourg.
  27. "Xavier Bettel". Bettel, Xavier: Biographie. Gouvernement du Grand Duché de Luxembourg. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
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  31. 1 2 Jean-Claude Juncker's most outrageous political quotations", The Daily Telegraph, The Foreign Staff, 15 July 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  32. "Eurogroup chief: 'I'm for secret, dark debates'", EUobserver, 21 April 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  33. "Juncker wants more eurozone activism". EUobserver. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  34. , The Daily Telegraph, 12 November 2014,
  35. "Economic policy of the eurozone needs to be decided in "dark, secret rooms"". EUobserverTV. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  36. "Eurogroup chief: 'I'm for secret, dark debates'". EUobserver. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
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  38. "Jean-Claude Juncker elected as EPP candidate for President of the European Commission". EPP. 7 March 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  39. "Eurovision debate". European Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  40. "Results of the 2014 European elections". European Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  41. "Juncker given first shot at EU commission job". EUobserver. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  42. "Conference of Presidents statement on Commission President election". European Parliament. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  43. "Remarks by President Herman Van Rompuy following the informal dinner of Heads of State or Government" (PDF). European Council. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  44. "Loosen EU budget rules in return for support, Socialists tell Juncker". EUobserver. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
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  50. "he battle for the European Commission - Has Merkel lost her touch?". Economist. 3 June 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
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  54. Ian Traynor. "Jean-Claude Juncker saved from censure over Luxembourg tax schemes". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  55. "EU Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker tried to convince the Greek Prime Minister to wear a tie". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  56. "Itt a teljes Juncker-videó!". (in Hungarian). Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  57. "'Dictator is coming!' Hungarian PM heckled by European Commission chief (VIDEO)". Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  58. "Juncker known for informal style, spox says on greeting Orban as "dictator"". Daily News Hungary. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  59. "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 1978. Retrieved November 2012. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  60. "ECB: The European project and the challenges of the future". 11 November 1999. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
Jacques Santer
Minister for Work and Employment
Succeeded by
François Biltgen
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Luc Frieden
Prime Minister of Luxembourg
Succeeded by
Xavier Bettel
Preceded by
Luc Frieden
Minister for the Treasury
Preceded by
Martine Reicherts
Luxembourgish European Commissioner
Preceded by
José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jean Spautz
Leader of the Christian Social People's Party
Succeeded by
Erna Hennicot-Schoepges
Diplomatic posts
New office President of the Eurogroup
Succeeded by
Jeroen Dijsselbloem
Academic offices
Preceded by
Javier Solana
Invocation Speaker of the College of Europe
Succeeded by
David Miliband
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