He often did not “dig deep enough” and should have taken disciplinary action against the head of the intelligence service, Jean-Claude Juncker admitted in an interview for the Luxemburger Wort on Saturday, but said that he refused to work in a “climate of distrust against the senior civil service”. The Prime Minister accused his Socialist coalition partner of having betrayed a “long friendship” and the “inclusive governance” of the country over the past nine years. “This has saddened me, not as Prime Minister but as a person.” Speaking of the election campaign, Juncker said that he did not want to engage in personal turf wars with other candidates but rather focus on boosting the economy, social issues and the public finances – key issues in the forthcoming CSV party manifesto.
Prime Minister, looking back with hindsight, would you have reacted differently to the SREL case?
I have expressed my position on all allegations of the committee of enquiry, point by point. I have given answers, but I have not received any answers to my reaction. I am therefore very pleased that many citizens followed the parliamentary debate and formed their own opinion. I have admitted a number of errors, for example that I did not take any disciplinary action against the former head of the intelligence service in view of protecting it from damage. I must also confess that I often did not dig deep enough because I trusted the officials in charge. Incidentally, I still refuse to work in a climate of distrust against the senior civil service.
A few days after the SREL debate, following a meeting of the Council of Ministers, you said that you had different feelings in various “emotional department” and that you wanted to analyze them first before commenting them any further. Are your ready to talk about them?
I am disappointed and deeply hurt. My disappointment is less political, but more of a human nature. I could never, not even in the last six months, discern any sign of distrust in the Prime Minister by Socialist ministers. Quite the contrary. The CSV holds no grudge against the LSAP over the issue of new elections. The CSV also agrees that the string had to be pulled. In human terms however, I am bitterly disappointed that the Socialist pulled that string over alleged failings of the Prime Minister. They betrayed a long friendship, as well as our collective and inclusive governance. I cooperated in good faith with the Socialist Party over the years. The Socialists know me not only as Prime Minister. They now that I dealt with all sorts of problems that they found themselves in. I can think, for example, of my massive defense of Labor Minister Nicolas Schmit, when he was in deep personal difficulties – nobody wanted or expected this from me. If this had been a CSV minister, the LSAP would probably have accused him of misconduct. All of this has saddened me, not as Prime Minister but as a person. I am not only the Prime Minister, I am also human. I must be able to rely on the trust of those around me, instead of having the truth twisted into a lie.
What happened has affected you deeply. The trust has been shaken. Is it still imaginable that your party, election results permitting, joins once again a coalition government with the LSAP?
The voter will reshuffle the cards on 20 October. I note, however, that there seems to be a decisional reflex to do everything possible to exclude the CSV from the next government. Other parties are saying this more or less openly. Such a train of thought is, however, rather superficial, because the LSAP, the DP and the Greens – taken together – did not received enough votes in the 2009 elections to form a government against the CSV. I do not exclude the possibility that this time they will form a coalition against the CSV, even if the CSV remains the strongest party. The LSAP lead candidate Etienne Schneider has already made clear that he wants to be prime minister. If the LSAP does not want to be a junior partner, it is excluding from the outset a coalition with the CSV. Schneider is thereby putting his personal ambitions above the necessary political stability. It is indeed foolish to believe that a three-way alliance is more stable than a coalition between two parties. Yet the country needs stability in view of the challenges it faces.
You have received many expressions of encouragement and support, including from the most famous lawyer in Luxembourg, Gaston Vogel. Did that surprise you?
His gesture surprised me. We have always respected each other, even though we disagreed on many issues. It was a gesture nonetheless, because it was unrelated to ongoing processes. It also had a positive effect on my state of mind. (Laughs)
Because the election campaign will be very short, is likely to focus even more than usual on individual personalities. Will it in the end all come down to a Juncker-Schneider duel?
It would be an insult to the other parties to reduce the election campaign to a choice between Juncker and Schneider. It would also be wrong to confine a party to one personality. The lead candidate is effectively the sum of the contributions of all the other candidates. Although political figures will certainly be in the forefront of this campaign, I will not engage in personal turf wars. I also refuse to wage a one-sided campaign against the LSAP. In contrast, I have to say that the LSAP’s lead candidate is intent on making it a campaign against the Prime Minister and the CSV. However, it is not enough to be “cheeky”, as party leader Lucien Lux has put it. Being cheeky will not get you very far on the international stage. Nevertheless, I admire the confidence of Etienne Schneider, who said in an interview last January that he wanted to become prime minister, after only eleven months of experience as a member of government. In my time as a freshly cooked government member I never even dreamt of such a thing.
The CSV will present its election manifesto in September. Can you already reveal its tenor?
The party committees are presently fine-tuning our election manifesto. It will be along the lines of what we have done in the past few years and give more than just a superficial insight into the general prospects for the future. I will not reveal too much if I say that boosting the economy, social issues and the public finances will play a prominent role. We stand by what we have accomplished in the last nine years with the LSAP. The LSAP and their lead candidate, however, are already taking their distance and criticizing, for instance, the decision to raise VAT as part of a general tax reform or the decision to lift the banking secrecy in favour of an automatic exchange of information. That is what I find really “cheeky”.
Let us assume that the three parties manage to push the CSV into opposition. What will you personal future look like in that case?
If the CSV wins the election and is still relegated to the opposition benches because the LSAP, the DP and the Greens want a three-way coalition at all costs, or if the CSV were to lose the election, or if my personal result is less than desirable, then it is clear to me that I will accept my parliamentary mandate. I have made clear my intentions in that respect, unlike some candidates from other parties.
You were under much pressure over the last few months, but political activities had to continue. How did you endure this extreme strain?
A Prime Minister must never forget that he has a duty that goes beyond his own person. You must never allow yourself to be driven by feelings of dejection or sadness – and I had such moments, but you must stay true to your own convictions, however old-fashioned this might sound. You have to know that you are here not for yourself, but also and above all for others. My driving force is a sense of duty – one that also extends in particular to Europe because that is where it all happens – to direct the country in a way that it does not slide off the tracks, despite adverse political conditions. Moreover, and this has always given me courage, I have found that one must make a distinction between the world as portrayed by media, whose reflection on the world we must not underestimate, and the world as it actually exists. Thanks God that I receive daily, and more than just frequently, evidence of continuing trust from people who tell me that they believe that I am trying to do a good job, despite all the adversities. I would not have been able to weather the storm without this encouragement from the people.
(Source: wort.lu / translation by luxpol)