Juncker Era Nears End as Luxembourg Coalition Set Accord

Luxembourg is getting a new prime minister for the first time in almost two decades after coalition partners agreed on a five-year government program, marking the end of Jean-Claude Juncker’s tenure as premier.

Xavier Bettel, head of the Liberals, or DP, has led the coalition talks for the past month and will become the next prime minister, according to local media. Bettel, 40, who has been mayor of Luxembourg city since November 2011, will put forward Pierre Gramegna, director general of the Chamber of Commerce, for the finance minister post, RTL reported yesterday.

“After exactly 183 hours of talks, we have put this agreement on paper,” Bettel told a press conference in Luxembourg at which the lead negotiators from the coalition’s three parties signed the 193-page common program.

After a spy scandal prompted snap elections in October, Juncker’s Christian Social People’s party, or CSV, gave up three seats in Parliament. While CSV, which has been in power almost continuously since World War II, remained the strongest party with 23 seats in the 60-seat chamber, it was the group’s lowest tally since 1999.

Bettel didn’t name the new ministers, only confirming that the Liberals will have the prime minister and finance minister portfolios as well as treasury, budget and education. The Socialists will have the foreign ministry, defense and health posts, while the Greens will get justice and environment.

New Ministers

The 15 new ministers will be announced the night of Dec. 3 during the parties’ congresses and the government will be sworn in the following day.

The Liberals, or DP, gained four Parliament seats to 13 in the election, while the Socialists, or LSAP, maintained their 13 seats and the Greens went down one to six.

Europe’s longest-serving leader, Juncker has been Luxembourg’s prime minister since 1995. The nation of 531,000 people, which was the EU’s smallest member until Malta joined in 2004, has been governed by prime ministers from CSV since 1945, except for 1974-1979, the only time the head of government was a Liberal in a DP-LSAP coalition.

Juncker, who turns 59 in December, called early elections after the Socialists, the longest coalition partner of CSV, in July called on the premier to take responsibility for a scandal involving Luxembourg’s State Intelligence Service.

While Juncker denied allegations of using the secret service to further his own aims and those of his party, a July 5 report to Parliament said the premier was “politically responsible” for failing to inform lawmakers of “irregularities and supposed illegalities” by the Intelligence Service.

Driving Force

A driving force behind the development of the euro, Juncker was a signatory of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union and led to the introduction of the single currency. In 2005, he became head of the Eurogroup of euro-area finance ministers when he was serving as Luxembourg’s finance chief in addition to prime minister.

Juncker stepped back from the front lines of Europe’s debt crisis in January when he ceded the Eurogroup post to Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

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