Luxembourgh Times
European Stability Mechanism

Juncker hits out at Gramegna's bid to lead ESM

Former Luxembourg Prime Minister accuses government of "taking people for fools" over resignation of former finance minister

Jean-Claude Juncker was the country's Prime Minister from 1995 to 2013

Jean-Claude Juncker was the country's Prime Minister from 1995 to 2013 © Photo credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

Former Luxembourg Prime Minister and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has hit out at Pierre Gramegna's bid to lead the EU's crisis rescue fund, the ESM, claiming voters were misled when the ex-finance minister said he was resigning from government to spend more time with his family.

At the end of last year, Gramegna gave up his role as Luxembourg’s finance minister for “personal reasons”, stating that he wished to spend more time with his family, but only six months later threw his hat in the ring for the top job at the ESM with the support of the Luxembourg government.

"You should not take people for fools," Juncker told broadcaster RTL on Saturday. "He said he wanted to look after his family, which I understand. Whether, if he becomes the director of the ESM, he'll be able to see his family more often than when he was finance minister, I dare to say I doubt."

"[The ESM chief] travels around the world constantly. He doesn't just sit idly in Kirchberg or with his family", the former Commission President added.

Juncker's rare public criticism of the government comes as Gramegna faces another lengthy wait to find out if he will be the next head of the EU’s crisis rescue fund after eurozone finance ministers failed to take a decision at a meeting in Luxembourg earlier this month.

"The government shouldn't first declare that this man wants some peace and quiet and then propose to [give him a job] where he would have less time than as finance minister", said Juncker, who was also the country's finance minister for two decades between 1989 and 2009 as a member of the CSV party, which is currently sitting in opposition to the government, a coalition headed by Gramegna's Democratic Party.

Juncker also presided over the Eurogroup between 2005 and 2013 and was a key figure in setting up the ESM and choosing its first managing director in 2012.

Gramegna is competing against Marco Buti of Italy and Portugal’s João Leão, but is widely seen as the most experienced candidate. No new date has been scheduled for a vote, although a decision must be made before 7 October when the term of current ESM chief Klaus Regling ends.

This is the third time that Gramegna has attempted to secure a top EU post. He failed to become the head of the Eurogroup during bids in 2017 and in 2020, when he only received the votes of his two Benelux partners.