Juncker is a new entry this year
Wherever Jean-Claude Juncker has gone in the past 12 months,
controversy has followed more closely than his shadow.
He must have grown some pretty thick skin during 2014, as
commentators from all over the world weighed in with criticism
of the European Commission president.
"Jean-Claude Juncker needs to go" was the heading attached
to a November 9 editorial from Bloomberg View.
The former Luxembourg finance minister (for 20 years between
1989 and 2009) and prime minister (for 18 years between 1995
and 2013) was a controversial choice for the Commission
presidency even before the comfort letter tax rulings and state
aid investigations hit the news, with the UK in particular
voicing strong concerns about the cognac-drinking
"Everything has consequences in life. Obviously, I think
proceeding in the way that countries are planning to proceed in
choosing this individual, I believe that this is the wrong
approach. And I think that would be bad for…all of
Europe," said UK Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of
Juncker's appointment to the EU's top job.
Criticism from the UK has increased since the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released swathes
of documents detailing tax arrangements Luxembourg agreed with
hundreds of corporate taxpayers while Juncker was the Grand
"[He] has just taken over the European Commission, [but]
he's presided over the biggest exploitation of European nations
in his own little country for decades," said Margaret Hodge,
chairwoman of the UK parliament's Public Accounts Committee and
Global Tax 50 2013 top 10 member.
The Bloomberg View editorial pulls no punches
either, describing Juncker as a "quintessential backroom
dealer" who built and ran an international tax haven at the
expense of other European countries, concluding that his
position "as the head of the body investigating the tax
practices he oversaw as Prime Minister is a clear conflict of
Doubtless he would have preferred a more low-key opening to
his tenure as Commission President, but judging by the response
of his spokesman in November, his skin is indeed thicker than a
"If he were a teenager I'd say he was cool," said the
president's representative, who insisted he was not feeling any
pressure despite cancelling public appearances.
The controversy surrounding Juncker's appointment, the
initial state aid investigations and the ICIJ-driven LuxLeaks
revelations have ensured that the general public's interest in
tax has continued to grow. As the Commission's top man,
Juncker's influence was always assured, but the way this has
manifested itself to date means his influence has been much
more negative than he would have liked.
If things carry on the way they are doing, and Juncker does
not resign, the Commission's reputation runs the risk of being
downgraded to Junck status.