Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg and head of the Eurogroup assembly of euro zone finance ministers, confirmed that he will step down in the middle of the year from the post he has held for seven years.
Reuters reported Wednesday that Eurogroup officials have postponed making a decision on who will succeed Juncker, although Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of Germany is one of the candidates being considered. There is talk that Juncker may be asked to postpone his departure until after the resolution of the euro zone debt crisis, although when asked by the German weekly Die Zeit if he still planned to depart the post, he replied, “Yes, this is still the state of affairs.”
Juncker’s job is not the only one to be in need of a successor in the months to come, and expectations are that there will be substantial political jockeying for position as the European Union seeks to maintain a balance of power. Other positions to be filled are the head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) permanent euro zone bailout fund, an executive board membership at the European Central Bank (ECB) and a slot at the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
In an interview with Die Zeit, Juncker confirmed that he had decided to step down, citing his health and a heavy work load. He also had some harsh words for his peers, citing among them a lack of “breakneck European audacity.” He also criticized them as “ungifted pragmatists” who are focused solely on managing their heritage. He was quoted in the report saying, “My generation, currently holding the reins of power, must learn to finally cement Europe.”
In an earlier radio interview on April 4, he said that he has singled out a potential successor himself but would not name the individual. He was quoted saying, “The one who should know does know,” adding, “A few names have been floated but we are not yet at a point where we could decide because I also gather the French government would prefer we make this decision only after the French presidential election.”