Two weeks before the elections to the European Parliament, there is a compelling need for a play-by-play analysis of political profiles and manifestos. The parties belonging to the two major political groups, Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and European People’s Party (EPP) are currently running their election campaigns in the member states with their respective front-runners Martin Schulz (S&D) and Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP). Neither of them is good news for Europe. In fact, their political positions mock the fundamental principles of a free and just society. Here’s why.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the outcome of the elections will determine the presidency of the European Commission. We previously reported on the audacious machinations of Martin Schulz.
One would have hoped for a more reasoned and principled choice from the EPP group — especially in times of growing distrust in the established parties and the appearance of new alternatives. However, with the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP group has chosen a front-runner who, on fundamental societal questions, is as far away from Christian-Democratic principles as one can be.
Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013, has been elected as EPP’s top candidate after squaring off against French Commissioner Michel Barnier in the EPP 2014 Elections Congress in Dublin. Eight years heading the Eurogroup, Juncker has played a key role in the European economic recession control and stabilization process. As part of the EPP compromise for the future of Europe, Juncker has committed himself — rightly so — to financial markets reform, strengthening of the subsidiarity principle, the SMEs, entrepreneurship-friendly policies, and the construction of a social market economy to combine freedom and solidarity.
In terms of migration, he advocates absolute freedom of movement, residence and work within European borders and restrictive migration policies for non-Europeans.
In external policy, he pushes for a trusting transatlantic partnership and more restrictive and cautious EU enlargement compromises, very much in line with the official EPP position.
Finally, the fight against organized crime, data protection as a human right, and an effective development policy round out an expected, rather vague program, reflecting not much more than politically correct EU talk.
But who is the person behind the public figure Juncker? How would he be leading the most powerful EU institution and shaping Europe for the next five years? His political record and personal behavior (his heavy use of alcohol has come up regularly in the media over the last years) are simply too controversial for someone who is supposed to be that upright person who can represent the wide range of center-right voters.
Taken down by a spy scandal
July 10, 2013, after 18 years in office, Juncker was compelled to announce his resignation because of the scandal enveloping the Intelligence Service of the State Luxembourg (SREL), which was alleged to having engaged in years of illegal wiretapping of the country’s foremost authorities. In addition to this, there were other irregularities and abuses involving the embezzlement of funds from the Chamber of Deputies to the SREL, whose executive chief, at least on paper, was Juncker. Consequently, at October 21, 2013, Juncker presented his ceremonial resignation to the Grand Duke.
Lying as a legitimate political strategy?
On April, 21st, 2011, Juncker explained his understanding of political integrity at a conference: Referring to the way he and the EU deals with the Euro crisis and the financial market, he said: “I have to lie. I’m a Christian democrat and a Catholic, but when it becomes serious, you have to lie”.
Pushing for the legalization of euthanasia
Luxembourg, with Belgium and the Netherlands, became the third country in the European Union to decriminalize euthanasia, after the country's parliament approved a bill on the right to a “dignified death” on February 19, 2008. Despite the strong opposition to the bill from Christian Social People's party, of which he is a member, Juncker had an active role in promoting the legalization of euthanasia going as far as pushing Luxembourg towards a constitutional crisis in order to get the law passed. Luxembourg was, at that time, a constitutional monarchy in which the Grand Duke held executive power and bills only became law with his signature.
Consequently, when Grand Duke Henri, invoking "reasons of conscience" threatened to block the law legalizing euthanasia if it was passed by parliament, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker responded by saying the country would change its constitution to reduce the powers of the sovereign. "I understand the grand duke's problems of conscience. But I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force" declared Juncker to AFP news agency. "Because we wish to avoid a constitutional crisis, but at the same time respect the opinion of the Grand Duke, we are going to take out the term 'approve' from article 34 of the constitution and replace it with the word 'promulgate” he added, a move which has scrapped the sovereign's formal power to block laws.
This way, through the active support of Juncker, in March 2009, the Chamber, by 30 votes to 26, passed a law decriminalizing euthanasia for patients with irreversible or terminal diagnosis.
Under the fourth and last mandate of Juncker, Luxembourg legalized abortion on demand. On November 22, 2012, with 39 to 21 votes, the Chamber of Deputies passed a law which claimed to provide “punishment-free termination” and the “self-determination of women.” However, the law was trying to create precedents for pushing the Council of Europe to “decriminalize abortion” and “to provide barrier-free access to a legal abortion”. The law aimed to permit mothers, without the need for a medical criteria, to decide when a pregnancy is causing a situation of distress to a degree to justify an abortion. In addition, minor girls may abort their children without parental consent or knowledge, when accompanied by a “trusted” adult.
Civil partnerships (regardless the sex of the partners) were legalized in Luxembourg in 2004. The law provided same-sex unions with almost the same welfare and fiscal benefits of traditional marriage. However, it didn’t grant the right to jointly adopt children. Soon after, legalization of same-sex marriage was starting to be discussed. Despite the fact that the ruling Christian Social People's Party (until 2009) was opposed to same-sex marriage, the former Prime Minister, Juncker, has expressed his personal support, pushing different calls for legalization. Nevertheless, the bill has been stalled in parliament since July 2009. Luxembourg’s recently elected openly gay Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, promised during his election campaign to legalize marriage equality by the first trimester of 2014.
Besides these troubling political positions, it’s not a secret that Juncker is a reputed drinker — the allegations made by Jeoren Dijsselbloem, his successor as head of the Eurogroup are just one example of this being publicly mentioned. According to a recent article named "Achtung, Alkoholkontrolle!" in the German magazine "Der Spiegel", the EPP top candidate has a serious alcohol problem, although he himself denies it.
In sum, Jean-Claude Juncker turns out to be openly opposed to fundamental principles cherished by the EPP and many of its voters throughout Europe, such as the right to life, special protection of the traditional family, honesty, loyalty, and political integrity. It is not only a worrisome sign of social and political lack of vision and principles to see Jean-Claude Juncker being supported by EPP parties all over Europe as their front-runner. It is first and foremost disrespectful of all those voters who want the EPP to stand for truly Christian-Democratic principles and who are, so often, shrugged off.