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Charlemagne Prize 2006


Citation of the Board of Directors for Award of the International Charlemagne Prize to the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Dr. Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker (c) Stadt Aachen / Andreas Herrmann"A body without a soul is dead. A united Europe needs a soul." This remark by Jacques Delors, Charlemagne Prize winner in 1992, puts the finger on a vital point. It is essential to go beyond the everyday problems of detail in Europe and to focus on what holds Europe together in its innermost being and defines its position in the world – the European Union is the greatest and most successful effort ever made to secure peace and freedom throughout the continent; that is peace in freedom, not based on the balance of power, but rather on shared values and institutions.

And yet, there is no denying that Europe currently lacks a genuine identity, and that there is still great distance between the citizens of the member states and their European institutions. That gives rise to insecurity, anxiety, worries, and expectations which have to be taken seriously. More than ever, the European Union needs open dialogue between the politicians and the people. More than ever, it needs visionary leaders who can gain the hearts and minds of the people of Europe for the organisations of European unity – creative personalities who can sense and identify the opportunities that a United Europe offers, and put them into practice at the everyday political level.

In recognition of his role as a driving force and a key player in practically all the integration steps taken over the past two decades, as a mediator, facilitator and bridge builder between politicians and peoples, and between the member states of the Community with all their differences, and in recognition of his role as an innovative thinker for the United Europe of the future, the Board of Directors of the Association for Award of the International Charlemagne Prize has chosen Dr. h.c. Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, for the Charlemagne Prize 2006.

“If you doubt, or even despair of Europe, go and visit war graves.” This reflection by Jean-Claude Juncker is a pointed reminder to us all that peace in Europe cannot be taken for granted. The older generation has bitter experience of that. He feels that Europeans are “not proud enough of what the wartime generation built on the ashes and rubble”. The young people of today see war between the states of the EU as unthinkable – rightly so. And if Jean-Claude Juncker explains why he always “wants to be there whenever an initiative is launched for more Europe”, it is these fundamental considerations that motivate the head of government of the smallest of the EU founding members.

Though he is no more than 51 years old, Jean-Claude Juncker has been involved longer than all the other heads of state and government at the forefront of the process of European integration; in 1986, for example, he played an important part in the Single European Act which led to the internal market; in 1992 he was involved in negotiating the Treaty of Maastricht, when the European Union replaced the European Community and the Currency Union, and the Common Foreign and Security Policy was adopted; in 1996 in agreement on the Stability and Growth Pact; in December 2000 in the Treaty of Nice; a year later in establishment of the European Convention; in the Copenhagen agreement in December 2002 on accession of 10 new member states; and last year in 2004, in enlargement and in the signing of the constitutional treaty. Juncker was a driving force in all these steps for integration, and a major player in the efforts to achieve a balance between European interests and the different national interests. He spoke out passionately and convincingly for his idea of a Europe characterised by economic strength, by innovation, and at the same time by social justice.

Jean-Claude Juncker was born in Rédange-sur-Attert, Luxembourg, on 9 December 1954, the son of a steel worker. After taking his law degree at Strasbourg University, he worked as a lawyer and, initially alongside his professional activity, became Secretary of the Parliamentary Group of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), where he was already Chairman of the youth organisation.

In 1982, at the age of just 28, Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed by Pierre Werner, then Prime Minister, as Secretary of State for Labour and Social Security. He was elected as a Member of the Luxembourg Parliament for the first time in June 1984, and soon afterwards given increased responsibilities and powers as Minister of Labour and Minister Delegate to the Finance Minister with responsibility for budgetary issues. In 1989, with his appointment as Minister of Labour and Finance, he became firmly established as the “right-hand man” to the new Head of Government, his friend and supporter Jacques Santer. In 1990 Juncker became leader of the CSV, and successfully defended its majority at the June 1994 election. When Prime Minister Santer took over from Jacques Delors as President of the EU Commission in 1995, Juncker won the election on 26 January 1995, as expected, to become Prime Minister of Luxembourg. At the same time he kept his former ministerial responsibilities and took on the Treasury as well.

Immediately after taking office, Juncker announced a more active European policy, and spoke out resolutely against any weakening of the terms set out in the Treaty of Maastricht and of the convergence criteria for the monetary union. He attracted broad international attention at the Dublin Summit of the EU in December 1996, when he helped to achieve the breakthrough for the stability and growth pact largely initiated by Theo Waigel and Carlo Ciampi. “It was by no means harmful that Juncker knew more about the monetary union than all the other Premiers and Chancellors put together” (taz, 20 December 1996), as political commentators noted with respect at the time. When the Finance Ministers of the Currency Union agreed on the formation of the “Eurogroup” representing the Finance Ministers of the member states taking part in the monetary union, it was no great surprise that its Presidency went to Jean-Claude Juncker, who took on this office on 1 January 2005 for a two year period, and in March 2005 was able to end a long phase of monetary uncertainty with a moderate reform of the Stability Pact.

Though highly praised for the efficiency of its organisational work, the Luxembourg EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2005 achieved little in terms of results. Despite all the efforts of the Prime Minister, no agreement was reached on the financial forecasts 2007 to 2013; following the referendum failures in France and the Netherlands, a “period of reflection” was agreed on the Constitutional Treaty – it was not signed until October 2004, and even then it was not ratified by all the member states. At that time of crisis in the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker once more showed steadfastness, persistence and energy in his work of persuasion. Unlike many a counterpart in other member states, he held fast to the constitutional referendum planned in the Grand Duchy, staking his own political future on a positive outcome of the Luxembourg vote. In this, the first national referendum held since 1937, the people of Luxembourg endorsed the views of their Prime Minister and gave a clear signal for the Constitution, with nearly 57% in favour.

Jean-Claude Juncker has already received many honours, in particular for his commitment to European policy, e.g. as “European of the Year 2003”, as “Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur”, as a recipient of the Iron Cross of the State of Romania, and most recently as recipient of the Walter-Hallstein Prize. He has also received honorary doctorates, for example from the Westphalian Wilhelms University of Münster. Juncker is a real polyglot, with a fluent command of five languages. He has been married to Christiane Frising since 1979.

Jean-Claude Juncker, whose position as Prime Minister was impressively confirmed in 1999 by a Christian-Liberal coalition and in 2004 again by a Christian-Socialist coalition, is one of a long line of European policy makers in his country, following such personalities as Joseph Bech, Pierre Werner and Jacques Santer, who repeatedly succeeded in combining national interests with goals of European integration. He emphatically rejects any “demographic downsizing” of his country – “You don’t have to tell me Luxembourg is a small country – I have known that since I was knee high.” But “institutional life of Europe is a bit like in the animal kingdom – a flea can drive a lion crazy, but there is no known example of a lion driving a flea crazy. That shows how important it is to find the right balance between great and small.”

The man from Luxembourg is one of the Union’s innovative thinkers even on issues where his country hardly seems the natural leader – such as in foreign and security policy. “It is indispensable for us to take a more decisive stand than before on our European responsibility, and to formulate and implement common policy in matters of European security, and European defence and foreign policy. And what is true for foreign and security policy is also right for European development aid. [...] The international economic order remains fundamentally unjust, and Europeans need to make a major contribution to make things fairer, and simpler for the people. That is why development aid is also a European project. The European Union should be a model to the whole of the world in this issue. We in Europe have to ensure that the contributions we can make for the rest of the world are also in line with the aspirations we have for ourselves. The external impact of the European Union is something that can create meaning within Europe, too. We have to shape Europe in such a way that our people can be proud to be European. And they can only take pride in themselves if they can also do something for others.”

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of the few nations in the world that gives development aid in excess of the target level of 0.7% of GNP set by the United Nations.

European policy is close to the hearts of the people of Luxembourg, and is “not just concerned with political programmes and policy declarations. It is also concerned with people. You cannot do anything for Europe if you do not love people. [...] You cannot shape the future if you simply count people like vast demographic voting resources, without seeing that they are real human beings.”

Jean-Claude Juncker has been chosen by the Board of Directors of the Association for the Award of the International Charlemagne Prize 2006, as a great European who lives up to the finest traditions of the people of Luxembourg with his credibility, his expertise, his persistence and his passion; who is a driving force and innovator in the process of integration; and who succeeds better than almost anyone else in winning the hearts and minds of the people for the work of European Unity.

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