Europe

Thursday 31 July 2014

Euro past made Jean-Claude Juncker a bogeyman

James Tapsfield

Published 22/06/2014|10:08

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Former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo credit: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg
Former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo credit: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg

Few European citizens would be able to pick him out in a line-up, but Jean-Claude Juncker has been a significant player in the continent's politics for a generation.

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Mr Juncker served nearly 19 years as prime minister of Luxembourg and was one of the architects of the euro, before finally being ejected last December.

So it is hardly surprising that he is regarded in many quarters - although not by David Cameron - as a natural choice to become the next president of the European Commission.

The 59-year-old is seen as slightly to the political left of the European centre-right mainstream.

The son of a Luxembourg steel worker, Mr Juncker went on to study law and get his first ministerial job at just 29. He has argued that his rise would not have happened without protections that helped his father's job security.

Mr Juncker has also supported a minimum wage across the EU.

However, he is generally held to be a pragmatic deal-maker and power broker rather than an out-and-out ideologue.

He was central to the fraught negotiations over the 1997 Stability and Growth Pact that originally underpinned the eurozone - a fact that hardly recommends him to Eurosceptics in the UK.

In 2005 Mr Juncker was heavily involved in amending that rulebook after Berlin and Paris broke the deficit limits.

When the eurozone descended into crisis in 2008, again it was Mr Juncker at the heart of efforts to ensure its survival, from Greece's bail-out to forging a banking union across member states.

The intense work reportedly took a toll on his health, with concern expressed in some quarters about his heavy smoking.

Press Association

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