New faces – same politics, says Juncker in first opposition speech
(CS) Luxembourg opposition leader Jean-Claude Juncker held his first speech in parliament on Wednesday, saying that around 80 percent of the coalition agreement is based on the CSV's election programme.
On the whole, Juncker said that while the faces on the government bench had changed, policies remained largely the same, with the DP-LSAP-déi Gréng coalition planning to continue several projects initiated by the past government.
For example, a reform of the law to adopt Luxembourg nationality had already been underway, as well as a reform of family law and wider access to state documents. Also the separation of church and state was already begun.
Also in regards to finance, the government largely matched the CSV's campaign proposals, on matters such as a rise in VAT, but no introduction of a wealth tax, Juncker commented.
“I'm constantly confusing the CSV election programme with the government programme,” Juncker joked.
Lack of detail on complex issues
While Juncker had positive words for several plans, such as a reform of the secret service, he criticised a lack of precision and detail in the agreement, presented by the coalition partners to the parties last week.
For example, Juncker said that it was unclear how exactly the government wants to cut spending by 1.5 billion euros. He criticised that the coalition had not put a price-tag on its investment plans.
The former PM also warned not to overuse referendums, but keep in mind the parliament, which is there for a purpose. Speaking about the right to vote for foreigners, for example, Juncker said that there is a danger of a poisonous public debate on the matter.
"You haven't found together yet”
Pointing towards an agreement of the smallest common denominator, Juncker said that where things get complicated the parties had left their proposals vague, arguing that the coalition was only possible because all parties had abandoned significant demands from their election programmes.
For example, the LSAP had accepted that the index will continue to be paid only once per year, despite the party advocating a full reinstatement of the indexation of wages.
The much talked-about renewal had not taken place, Juncker said, earning an aside from Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who said that the new opposition leader would not be able to drive the coalition apart.
“I cannot drive you apart, because you haven't found together yet,” Juncker quipped.
Ambiguity surrounds new coalition
While Juncker had maintained a largely matter-of-fact attitude throughout his speech, the end of his discourse showed that the wounds of the coalition talk snub have yet to heal.
Once again, the former Premier insisted that the citizens had chosen the CSV as the strongest party in the October elections, arguing that they “did not vote this coalition” into office. While saying that the coalition holds a legitimate majority in parliament, he added that there was a certain ambiguity about how this coalition was created.
Nonetheless, he wished the new government all the best for the next five years, in the interest of the country, as well as offering the CSV's support for sensible measures and promising constructive criticism in the future.