John Christensen ■ Jean-Claude Juncker and the rise of extremism
We have previously blogged about the role played by the former Luxembourg prime minister in shaping the rise of tax haven Luxembourg. Europe now faces the prospect that he will be elected the next president of the European Commission this coming week. If this happens, those politicians who vote for Juncker will be directly contributing to the re-emergence of extremist politics.
As Nick Cohen notes in today’s Observer newspaper, Juncker wants to take charge of a European Commission that is currently engaged in legal action against the tax regime in Luxembourg that he was responsible for putting in place. As president of the Commission he will have charge of an investigation into deals struck between his former government and transnational companies that have been taking advantage of Luxembourg’s EU membership to avoid paying taxes throughout the Union. Can such a man be trusted to act in the public interest?
The recent European elections revealed the scale of disenchantment with the old class of political duckers and divers – the sort of politicians who think it acceptable to elect Juncker because he’s been around for a long time and understands how Brussels works.
Meanwhile, in the absence of fresh thinking, racist and nationalist politics are on the rise as public support for centrist and progressive parties dwindles. The latter is at least partly due to the sense that politicians are all the same and that politics has been corrupted by being too close to big business. As Cohen says: “While the elite prattles about its principles in public, it rigs the system in private.”
If Juncker is elected by EU politicians – and there’s no alternative candidate at this stage – this will be an endorsement of a man who has put tax havenry at the heart of Europe. Countries like Greece, Hungary and Portugal, which have suffered heavily from tax evasion and avoidance, can reasonably expect that no effective action will be taken to tackle the EU’s tax haven problem. Disillusionment with the business-as-usual politics of Brussels will inevitably rise. And the only winners will be the extremists (plus Luxembourg and its tax haven clients).
Read Nick Cohen here.