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Born on 9 December 1954 in Redange-sur-Attert in western Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker spent his childhood and youth in the south of the country, in Belvaux, where his father was employed in one of the big steel plants. Life in this area, the stronghold of Luxembourg’s socialist and communist movements, with a high population of Italian and Portuguese immigrants, had a strong impact on the young student who soon became familiar with the realities of the workplace through his father’s union activities within the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions.
After completing his secondary education at the Clairefontaine boarding school in Belgium and obtaining his baccalauréat at the Lycée Michel Rodange in Luxembourg in 1974, Jean-Claude Juncker enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the Université de Strasbourg in 1975. For four years, he studied "without enthusiasm" although this didn’t prevent him from obtaining a Master's in Law in 1979. He was sworn in as a barrister in February 1980 but in fact never practised this profession. It was also in this major city of Alsace that Jean-Claude Juncker met his future wife, Christiane Frising.
He had already been politically active as a member of the Christian Social Party (Chrëschtlech Sozial Vollekspartei / CSV) since 1974 and attracted the attention of the party leaders, mainly due to his talents as an orator and his analytical mind, when he became the party’s parliamentary secretary in October 1979. Thereafter he rose swiftly and when a Government post became free in December 1982, the Minister of Finance at the time, Jacques Santer, got the Prime Minister Pierre Werner to allow the young Jean-Claude Juncker to be appointed, a few days before his 28th birthday, as State Secretary for Labour and Social Security, two tasks in line with his favourite political domains.
In June 1984, Jean-Claude Juncker was elected to the Luxembourg Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) for the first time. He was appointed Minister for Labour and Minister in charge of the Budget in Jacques Santer’s first Government.
In 1985, Luxembourg held the presidency of the Council of the European Communities and Jean-Claude Juncker therefore chaired the "Social Affairs" and "Budget" Councils. This period also marked the start of Jean-Claude Juncker’s firmly pro-European stance, which stemmed from the deep conviction that European integration was the only key to guaranteeing lasting peace in Europe and thus preventing the dramas and tragedies of the past with which he was all too familiar. In fact, his father had been forcibly enrolled in the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War and dispatched to the Russian front.
Following the general election held in June 1989, Jean-Claude Juncker entered a new phase of his political career when he was appointed Minister of Finance and Minister of Labour. As the Finance portfolio was traditionally regarded as an obligatory rite of passage for future Luxembourg Prime Ministers, the country’s political observers were all stating that Jean-Claude Juncker could now be regarded as Jacques Santer’s successor.
It was in fact during the 1989-1994 legislature that Jean-Claude Juncker was to definitively prove himself as an outstanding politician and statesman, both at national and European level. In 1991, in the seat of chairman of the "Ecofin" Council, Jean-Claude Juncker became one of the main architects of the Maastricht Treaty, especially the section relating to economic and monetary union, large passages of which were drafted by his own hand. It was also he who saved the EMU negotiations in May 1991 at an informal meeting in Luxembourg of the Ministers of Finance of the 12 Member Sates, by establishing the "opt out" principle for the UK. In February 1992, Jean-Claude Juncker was one of the signatories of the Maastricht Treaty.
However Jean-Claude Juncker’s career could have come to a dramatic end at this moment in time. After a serious road accident in autumn 1989, he was left in a critical condition and fell into a coma from which he didn’t emerge until two weeks later.
In the national arena, Jean-Claude Juncker started preparing in 1992 for the most extensive tax reform that the country had ever known. The tax reforms came into force on 1 January 1993.
Between January 1990 and February 1995, Jean-Claude Juncker was also chairman of the Christian Social Party.
In June 1994, Jean-Claude Juncker was re-elected to Parliament and retained his duties as Minister of Finance and Minister of Labour. On 20 January 1995, after the Prime Minister Jacques Santer had been nominated as President of the European Commission by the European Council and confirmed in this post by the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed Prime Minister by HRH Grand Duke Jean. Even as head of Government, he continued to fulfil the roles of Minister of Finance, Minister of Labour and Employment and Minister for the Treasury.
Once he became the Government leader, Jean-Claude Juncker broke new ground by getting more involved in representing Luxembourg abroad. He went on numerous official visits and work trips around the world, often taking a large economic delegation with him. Thanks to his initiative, political and economic links with many countries were strengthened. Particular importance was attributed to development cooperation with the target countries of Luxembourg Cooperation. By 2001, Luxembourg was among the top five countries most involved in development cooperation, with 0.8% of its GDP.
In December 1996, the international press headlines dubbed Jean-Claude Juncker the "Hero of Dublin", for his successful handling of a tricky mediation between the German Federal Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and the President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac, concerning the stability pact accompanying economic and monetary union.
Luxembourg’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the latter half of 1997 gave Jean-Claude Juncker an opportunity to reveal his ambitions for a more social Europe. The Extraordinary European Council on Employment in November 1997 saw the introduction of the Luxembourg process requiring member countries to submit an annual action plan for promoting employment and to fulfil quantified and verifiable criteria in terms of creating jobs and combating unemployment.
A month later, at the European Council in Luxembourg, the European Union opened its doors to Eastern expansion. The same summit saw the creation of the Euro 11, the informal group of Finance Ministers participating in economic and monetary union, since renamed the Eurogroup.
In June 1999, the Christian Social Party triumphed once more in the general election and Jean-Claude Juncker became Prime Minister of a Government composed of representatives of the Christian Social Party and the Democratic Party, putting an end to a 15-year coalition between the Christian Social Party and the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party. Jean-Claude Juncker kept the Finance and Communications portfolios.
On 6 July 2001, the Faculty of Philosophy at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Munster, Germany, awarded Jean-Claude Juncker the title of Doctor Honoris Causa. On 14 April 2003, he was also granted the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Bucharest for his merits in the construction of Europe. Since January 2004, Jean-Claude Juncker has also held the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Thrace.
On 5 February 2002, Jean-Claude Juncker was admitted to the order of the grand officier de la Légion d'honneur by the President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac, at the Élysée Palace in Paris. The Romanian head of State, Ion Ilescu, also presented him, on 13 April 2003, with the highest Romanian honour, the badge of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Star, for his unfailing energetic support for Romania joining NATO and the EU.
Lastly, since May 2003, Jean-Claude Juncker has been an honorary citizen of the town of Trier and since January 2004 an honorary citizen of Orestiada, a town situated in north-eastern Greece, in the Thrace region.
On 31 July 2004, Jean-Claude Juncker was reappointed Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the Government resulting from the general election held on 13 June 2004, in which he obtained a record personal score. The Government he has been running since that date is composed of the Christian Social Party (Chrëschtlech Sozial Vollekspartei/ CSV) and the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Arbechertpartei/ LSAP).
At the informal "Ecofin" meeting in Scheveningen on 10 September 2004, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Jean-Claude Juncker was elected President of the Eurogroup, the informal meeting of the Ministers of Finance of the Euro area. Mr Juncker thus became the first elected and permanent President of the Eurogroup. His mandate starts on 1 January 2005 and ends on 31 December 2006. It is renewable once.Having been governor of the World Bank from 1989 to 1995, Jean-Claude Juncker has acted, since 1995, as governor of the International Monetary Fund and governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
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