Jean-Claude Juncker

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You are Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Commission of Europe

The President of the Commission holds a very powerful position within the EU. The Commission is the legislative assembly of the EU, and the President sets the agenda for that assembly. He is also charged with representing the EU at important international events such as the G8 and the UN. The President’s role in foreign affairs is the enunciation and publication of EU policy. While he certainly engages in foreign policy, he focuses on making clear to other parties where the EU stands. This is a critical role as it helps to foster understanding between different parties, and to enhance the role of Europe on the world stage. However, it is important to note here that the President is bound by the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Like all other EU actors, he does not act alone or pursue his own goals but, rather, he pursues the goals outlined by the Council of Europe. A big part of his job is to publicize Europe's role in order to encourage the actions of other nations in supporting development measures. Not only does this make the EU look better, it subtly makes those who don’t do the same look worse. This is a way of subtly applying pressure and it is an art in which the President should be skilled.

Jean-Claude Juncker

You are a long-time veteran of political warfare. In fact, though you have a law degree, you’ve never actually practiced law, as you entered politics at a young age and have never left it. You served in Luxembourg’s Parliament for many years, you were Luxembourg’s representative on the World Bank’s Board of Governors, and you were a key architect of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union and the shared European currency, the Euro. In fact, you have been called “Mr. Euro” (not always a term of praise) and for eight years you headed the Eurogroup, a union of EU Finance Ministers whose nations adopted the Euro.

You served as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister for eighteen years, from 1995 until 2013, and for many of those years you were also Luxembourg’s Minister of Finance. You are regarded as a champion of European integration, the idea that Europe’s economic, industrial, political, legal, social and cultural affairs should be unified to the maximum degree possible. This stance has made you popular in some quarters (you have strong allies in the French and Germans) but has won you the enmity of British Prime Minister David Cameron, a noted “euro-skeptic” who wants Britain out of the EU. You were elected President of the Commission of Europe despite British opposition, in the first election under the Treaty of Vienna rules that truly made the selection of the President a political election. You were also quoted as saying that Cameron’s opposition to you was less about you, and more about his effort to gain credibility with Britain’s anti-immigrant parties.

Like your EU colleagues, you see the importance of financial interests in achieving political goals. You are a powerful politician occupying a role that some refer to as the dictator of Europe. However, even with your political might within the EU, your powers in foreign affairs are greatly curbed. You may not pursue your own policy but, rather, you must uphold the CFSP. Like Mogherini and Rompuy, you are bound to the decisions of the council. This is so that the EU does not trample over the sovereignty of member nations.

Your role in foreign affairs is to drum up support for EU policies and to publicize EU achievements in the international sphere. There is clear overlap between your duties and those of both Mogherini and Rompuy, though, so you work in close concert with them to avoid wasting effort. For example, while Mogherini might be pressuring Israel to allow goods into Gaza, and Rompuy is working behind the scenes with communiqués to the U.S., you will probably be trying to encourage other nations to follow the EU’s lead through the use of press releases demonstrating the concrete steps the EU is ready to take in order to ensure that the Gaza border crossings are functional and secure. Your job is to demonstrate the leading nature of Europe, and through the illustration of that role to encourage others to follow in the EU’s footsteps. This complex strategy requires that each member discuss with the other members their interpretation of the CFSP. Remember that the CFSP is vague for a reason. It is constructed to provide a set of guidelines that you can adapt to changing scenarios without having to get a CFSP for each new change. This does present some political pitfalls. What happens when you overreach and act in a way contrary to the CFSP? By ensuring that you work with the rest of your teammates, you ensure that you have some political cover. It is best to stay within arm’s reach of the CFSP. Perhaps here an example is in order. If Israel completely seals the Gaza Strip for a prolonged period of time, statements of condemnations and warnings that Israel’s actions are straining Israel-EU relations would certainly be called for. However, the more egregious the embargo the less you are able to be effective politically. Say that the border remains closed for several weeks and people in Gaza begin to starve. The CFSP does not provide for much more than statements. However, you could warn Israel that the EU is, let’s say, considering sanctions or considering the termination of trade partnerships. Considering and taking action are very different. A consideration is not an action and thus does not violate the policies of the EU. If an event occurs which requires an action that is not provided for under the CFSP, an amendment may be necessary.

The EU is not designed to respond to a crisis. In fact, all of your military assets are designed defensively. The EU has no authorization to act offensively. Trade should be considered your main source of pressure, but you cannot be afraid of a political fight. If you see Israel, Hamas, Iran, or any of the other regional actors abusing human rights you cannot be hesitant to say so. However, there is a difference between shaming and sanctions. The EU is very hesitant to enforce sanctions, partly because the CFSP has to be reconfigured and all member states must vote, and agree, on the new sanctions. Furthermore, sanctions have proven to be an unreliable tool. North Korea developed atomic weapons though it is nearly completely cut off from the world. Saddam Hussein was under some of the toughest sanctions in history; it took two wars to remove him from power. As a politician and diplomat, you must be a pragmatist. To you, the threat of sanctions is a more useful tool than the sanctions themselves, and you’ll want to avoid destabilizing policies. You are the chief pragmatist, weighing your options carefully and making careful decisions. Remember, the EU also loses out on large amounts of money when it imposes sanctions, severs political ties, imposes trade restrictions, or limits trade in any other way. You want to make money for the EU.

Playing Jean-Claude Juncker

You are the EU's point man for dealing with other foreign nations not immediately implicated in the issue at hand. Think of your primary role as being the person who gains international support for the causes of the EU. You focus on relations with not only foreign nations, but also with the media. Here, your role and those of Mogherini and Rompuy overlap, and this calls for a good amount of planning when making statements to the press, or reacting to a statement. Appearing disorganized is generally viewed as an undesirable thing. By carefully dividing team responsibilities, you can form a united front, without repeating the same point. You, above all, must understand this. While you are generally the point man, part of your job is recognizing when others will make a point more powerfully than you. If Mogherini has been working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to make a deal, her announcement of a deal would carry more weight. A good place for you to concentrate is on the publication of press releases and the reaction to the press releases of other countries.

Like the other EU players, you must understand that your politically conservative feelings are trumped by the desires of the EU. It is important for you to stay within the CFSP so as not to be seen as pursuing your own political ambitions. Still, you are most certainly not chained by these guidelines. You are seen as one of the most powerful men in Europe because of your ability to get things done and to solve problems. As such, you must maintain a very active role. Being viewed as involved in the creation of a solution is key to both your political ambitions and your personality.

We’ll conclude with two items that will help round out the picture of who you are. First, soon after you were elected Prime Minister of Luxembourg, there was a serious disagreement regarding EU monetary policy in 1996. At a point when the EU was still very much a foundling, you traveled to Ireland to negotiate an agreement between the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and the French President, Jacques Chirac that was a signal achievement in securing the economic future of the European Union. For this achievement, you were dubbed the “Hero of Dublin.” The other thing for which you’ve become known/notorious is for your advocacy of secret decision-making. At a 2011 EU Conference on monetary policy you acknowledged that you had lied about economic decisions being made in the corridors of power, baldly stating that such decisions were sometimes of such gravity that they shouldn’t be made in the open. You famously stated that “I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious […] I am for secret, dark debates.” You later claimed that you were exaggerating for ironic effect, but few seemed to be convinced. Know that your words and actions have provided ammunition to those who do not view the European Union as a force for good, and that your actions as President will be carefully scrutinized.


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