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Mr. Europe? The Ghosts of Juncker’s Past Come Back to Haunt Him

Blome, N., Pauly, C., Peter Schmitz, G. & Schult, C. (2014) “Mr. Europe? The Ghosts of Juncker’s Past Come Back to Haunt Him“, Der Spiegel Online, 10 Νοεμβρίου.


He only recently took office as European Commission president, but now, Jean-Claude Juncker is under pressure due to potentially illegal tax deals forged in Luxembourg during his stint as the country’s prime minister. Some believe he may have to resign.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s first public appearance as the new European Commission president was a symbolic one. Early this month, he traveled to Frankfurt to present former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s new book in the luxury hotel Villa Kennedy. Called “Aus Sorge um Europa” — “Out of Concern for Europe” — the book warns that the pursuit of national interests represents a danger to the European ideal. And Juncker is quick to endorse Kohl, a man he calls “a friend and role model.”

“Kohl is right in deploring the fact that we are increasingly sliding down the slope toward reflexive regionalism and nationalism,” Juncker said.

It is certainly not the first time Juncker has uttered such a sentence. Indeed, his delivery of the message has often been even more direct. “I’ve had it,” he erupted during an EU summit in December of 2012, for example. “Eighty percent of the time, only national interests are being presented. We can’t go on like this!”

Such sentiments have served Juncker well throughout his career and have helped transform the politician from tiny Luxembourg into a well-known defender of Europe. Now, though, at the apex of his European career, Juncker and his beloved European Union are facing a significant problem. And it is one that has led even advisors close to Juncker to wonder whether he may soon have to step down from his new position, despite having taken office only recently.

Last week, several media outlets, including the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, published the most detailed accounts yet of the tricks used — and the eagerness brought to bear — by Luxembourg officials to help companies avoid paying taxes. The strategies were often developed together with company leaders and served to entice multinationals to set up shop in Luxembourg. The tiny country on Germany’s western border, for its part, benefited from tax revenues it wouldn’t otherwise have seen. It was, in short, a reciprocal relationship.

But it was also a relationship that was disadvantageous for Luxembourg’s EU partners — and for European cooperation itself. Many of the companies that set up shop in Luxembourg, after all, no longer paid taxes in their home countries where they produced or sold the lion’s share of their products.´


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