Jean-Claude Juncker is a Luxembourgian politician currently serving as the President of the European Commission. Prior to assuming this office, he had served as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg for eighteen years. Born on 9th December 1954 in Redange Luxembourg, he studied at the University of Strasbourg and got a postgraduate degree in law. He was also sworn into the Luxembourg Bar Council in 1980; however, he never practiced law. Shortly after he left university, his political career began as he was appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary.
He won the election to the Chamber of Deputies, where he was appointed to the Cabinet of the Prime Minister as the Minister of Labor. He was soon promoted to the Minister of Finance. He was also offered a position as a member of the board of Governors at the World Bank. He was appointed the Prime Minister of Luxembourg on 20th January 1995, after which he left his post at the World Bank, but continued as the Minister of Finance. He served as the prime minister till 2013.
Since 2014, he has been serving as the President of the European Commission despite his involvement in multiple controversies. The European Parliamentary Research Service concluded that Juncker’s team has already delivered 80 percent of all the proposals it promised in the 2014-2019 period. Juncker’s team has withdrawn 109 legislative proposals, repealed 48 existing laws and undertaken 137 regulatory simplifications. Though the mountain of EU rules continues to grow, it’s slowed significantly. On areas outside the Commission’s tradition purview, like security and defense, We’ve done more in six months than in the last 60 years, that’s all him.
People used to laugh when he talked about European defense and he’s done it. Juncker has built teams that cut across policy areas like Michel Barnier’s Brexit task force and a Structural Reform Support Service to tackle the EU’s most complicated challenges. National leaders have tended to choose Commission presidents who won’t challenge them too much. By that standard José Manuel Barroso was a resounding success. But with Juncker they failed: he calls them out in private and in public.
Juncker’s Commission is more functional as a team than Barroso’s was. It has double the number of national political heavyweights (eight former prime ministers and deputy prime ministers), and with its new structure of vice presidents leading teams of policy-based commissioners, it has been able to present a more unified narrative. Professor Hussein Kassim, an expert on Commissions past and present, credits him with delivering a political transformation of the institution.
He was primarily raised in the southern part of the country. At a young age, he became a member of the Christian Social People’s Party. After completing his schooling from a boarding school in Belgium, he joined the University of Strasbourg in France, from where he earned his master’s degree in law in 1979. The following year, he was sworn into the Luxembourg Bar Council.
Jean-Claude Junker has received honorary doctorates from many universities, including the University of Porto, the University of Athens, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Bologna. He has received several international honors, such as Knight of the Order des Arts et des Lettres (France), Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor (France), Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer’ (Greece), ‘Grand Cross of the Portuguese Order of Christ, German Citizenship Prize and The European Culture Prize. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Vision for Europe Award’ (1998), European of the Year’ (2005), European Banker of the Year (2008), and European Prize for Service Economics (2009).
When Jean-Claude Juncker presented the 10 priorities for his European Commission presidency in July 2014, he described his five-year term as the European Union’s last chance saloon. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before he was plunged into crisis; 2015 saw another contentious Greek bailout, a fundamental strain to the bloc’s cohesion as more than a million refugees arrived by boat and the start of a new wave of terror attacks.
By the summer of 2016, after the British voted to leave the EU, Juncker was battling what one EU official described as a real the-Commission mood. His presidency if he resisted pressure to resign was set to be remembered for the loss of the United Kingdom and even possibly the collapse of the Schengen visa-free travel area or the euro.
The Brexit vote proved to be Juncker’s low-water mark. Greece is on the road to recovery. Migrants are still arriving but in fewer numbers. The EU27 are (for now) united on Brexit. A once ascendant populist uprising has been put down in series of national elections. The eurozone has grown for 17 quarters in a row, and unemployment is back to 2009 levels
When Juncker arrived in office there was no flailing British prime minister or extremist Polish government to compare him to. His undisciplined summit antics and big mouth once elicited titters and umbrage; now they produce only yawns in the shadow of U.S. President Donald Trump. For a man who lacks many of the basic tools of statecraft a treasury, an army, or wide-ranging executive power it was never going to be easy to marshal the discipline and ideas needed to get the whole EU thriving again. But somehow, just by surviving to witness the EU’s turnaround, Juncker looks almost like a success.