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Jean-Claude_Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker (born December 9, 1954) is a Luxembourgian politician, the leader of the Christian Social People's Party. He is the incumbent Prime Minister of Luxembourg, having succeeded Jacques Santer on January 20, 1995. He is also currently Luxembourg's Minister for Finances, a position that he has held since 14 July 1989. He has served two six-month terms as President of the European Council in 1997 and 2005.

Early life and education

Juncker was born in Redange and spent most of his childhood in Belvaux. His father had fought in World War II after being forcibly recruited into the Wehrmacht, and was a steelworker and a member of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions. Juncker studied at Clairefontaine in Belgium before returning to Luxembourg to attain his baccalaureate in the Lycée Michel Rodange. Around that time, in 1974, he joined the Christian Social People's Party. Juncker went on to study law at the University of Strasbourg, attaining a Master of Law degree in 1979. Although he was sworn into the Luxembourg Bar Council in 1980, he never practiced as a lawyer.

Early political career

Juncker returned to Luxembourg, and his oratory skills earned him a promotion to the position of Parliamentary Secretary. He earned election to the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg for the first time in 1984 and immediately took the office of Minister for Labour under Jacques Santer. This led to a chairpersons' 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 road traffic accident, spending two weeks in a coma. He nonetheless recovered in time to be returned to the Chamber of Deputies once more, picking up the Finance portfolio along with his Ministry of Labour post. The Ministry of Finance post is traditionally seen as a rite of passage to the premiership of the country, and his eventual promotion to Prime Minister seemed at this time inevitable, with political commentators concluding that Santer was grooming Juncker as his heir. Juncker at this time accepted the position of Governor of the World Bank.

Ascent to premiership

Juncker's second election to Parliament saw him gain prominence in 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.

Juncker was re-elected to the Chamber in 1994, maintaining both his ministerial roles. With Jacques Santer ready to be nominated as the next President of the European Commission, it was only six months later, on January 20, 1995, that Grand Duke Jean approved the appointment of Juncker as Prime Minister, as part of a coalition with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party. Juncker relinquished his post at the World Bank at this time (swapping it for governorship of the International Monetary Fund) but maintained his previous ministerial positions; he was now the Minister of State, of Labour and Employment and of the Treasury.

Prime Minister

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 pro-European press dubbed Juncker the Hero of Dublin for achieving an unlikely consensus between the two.

1997 brought the rotating Presidency of the European Council to Luxembourg for the first time in Juncker's administration, giving Juncker a bigger stage on which to pitch his pro-European proposals. 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.

Juncker succeeded in winning another term as Prime Minister in the 1999 elections, although the coalition with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party was broken in favour of one with the Democratic Party. After the 2004 elections, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party became the second largest party again, and Juncker again formed a coalition with them. Shortly after re-election, Juncker found himself misinformed at a European Union summit over the condition of then-ailing Palestinian National Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Juncker mistakenly announced his death prematurely, before retracting the claim citing misunderstanding.

In 2005, Juncker inherited a second term as European President, but this six-month chairmanship was dogged by infighting in European circles; at one point, during a visit to Brussels by the United States President George W. Bush, he famously claimed that "if ridiculousness could kill, the streets of Brussels would be piled high with dead bodies." There were complications also in ratification of the European Constitution treaty, with France voting against the proposal on May 29 and the Netherlands following suit three days later. 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.

Legacy

Juncker became "Mr. Euro" on 1 January 2005, assuming the presidency of the Eurogroup. His importance in European economic circles and his efforts to harmonise the European economy and bring about the Euro are widely recognised. Although very popular in his homeland, he is noted for his authoritarian style of governance, which draws a number of criticisms; the satirical journal De Neie Feierkrop compared him unfavourably to Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa.

Juncker is currently the longest-serving head of government of any European Union state. It is often suggested in the press that he, like his predecessor Santer, will eventually give up his position as Prime Minister to assume the presidency of the European Commission, but Juncker continues to deny he has any plans to resign.

See also

External links

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