Juncker, left, with Moscovici at Thursday's hearing, before he ducked out early
Ten months ago, amidst the recriminations of the LuxLeaks scandal, the prospect of Jean-Claude Juncker appearing before a European Parliament inquiry into whether the European Commission president acted improperly while Luxembourg’s premier may have seemed to promise high political theatre.
In the event, however, Juncker’s testimony on Thursday before MEPs probing hundreds of sweetheart tax deals handed down to multinational companies in Luxembourg during his 18-year tenure as the country’s prime minister was anything but.
It featured a round of applause for his opening statement, plenty of softball questions, and the sight of Juncker ducking out before the end, citing an overrunning timetable and other commitments. Pierre Moscovici, the political savvy EU commissioner in charge of tax policy, was left to field the second and last round of questions. Read more
Put it down to all those bankers and Eurocrats: Luxembourgers are once again Europe’s richest citizens.
The Grand Duchy’s gross domestic product per person is 283 per cent of the EU average, according to 2010 data released this morning by Eurostat — itself based in Luxembourg. That’s a whopping 6.6 times larger than Bulgaria, the bloc’s laggard, whose GDP per person is a mere 43 per cent of EU output.
That gap between richest and poorest is 0.2 points larger than last year both because Luxembourg’s GDP share rose (from 272 per cent) and Bulgaria’s dropped (from 44 per cent). All figures are adjusted for purchasing power changes, so exchange rates don’t factor in.
There can be few presidential campaigns that have kicked off with the declaration “I am not a dwarf”. But this is what Le Monde quotes Jean-Claude Juncker today as saying in the interview in which Luxembourg’s prime minister reveals he would consider being a candidate for the European Union’s presidency “if the call came”.
I have interviewed Juncker and seen him in action more than a few times over the years, and I can confirm that he is not a dwarf – though I have heard other disparaging terms applied to him that need not concern us here. What most interests me is the enormous gulf in perceptions of Juncker’s potential candidacy between the UK and certain mainland European countries. Read more