Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission: Europe should focus on the big issues and not try to regulate everything
On 9 December 2016, it will be precisely 25 years ago that the EU Summit commenced which would lead to the much-discussed Maastricht Treaty. On this day, various top politicians and academics will be participating in a special “EU Summit” at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC). One of the speakers will be “Mr Europe”, Jean-Claude Juncker. The European Commission’s standard bearer participated in the Maastricht Summit in 1991 as Luxembourg’s Finance Minister.
Jean-Claude Juncker, current President of the European Commission, has been involved in European politics for a long time. Before the euro became the EU’s common (non-physical) currency in 1999, he served as Luxembourg’s Minister for Finances and Labour and Prime Minister (1995-2013). As Finance Minister, he helped prepare the European Community for Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of the euro. He has been the head of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, since 1 November 2014, making him one of the most powerful men in Europe.
Juncker, born in Rendange (Luxembourg) in 1954, began his political career early on as a member of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV). After studying law at the University of Strasbourg, he entered public service in 1982 when he was appointed Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Insurance at the age of only 28. Two years later he was elected to Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies on behalf of the CSV, and in 1985 joined the cabinet of the influential Jacques Santer, who later served as President of the European Commission (1995-1999).
Juncker suffered a serious road accident in 1989 and spent a few weeks in a coma. He recovered sufficiently to return to politics and eventually became Prime Minister of Luxembourg in 1995. He became President of the Eurogroup on 1 January 2005 and was succeeded in this post on 21 January 2013 by Dutch Minister of Finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
After 19 years as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Juncker tendered his resignation in the summer of 2013 when a Parliamentary enquiry found that he had been deficient in monitoring the activities of the country’s State Intelligence Service. Less than a year later (on 15 July 2014), the European Parliament elected Juncker as Commission President.
The former lawyer, who is eager to point out the many practical advances made at EU level since “Maastricht”, is the recipient of many prestigious international prizes, including the International Charlemagne Prize and the Walter Hallstein Prize, named after the first Commission President of the European Economic Community – the forerunner of today’s European Union – who died in 1982.
Juncker believes that the European Union should restrict itself to the big issues. “Let’s focus on the important matters and not regulate everything, certainly not when the rules affect the everyday lives of people. And let’s certainly not refer to the ‘United States of Europe’. People don’t care for that. They want to be Limburgers, or Luxembourgers, or Walloons, or Flemings, or Bavarians or Tyroleans.”