POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Engel considers forming new political party



Frank Engel, pictured at a press conference on 19 March when he announced his resignation as party president, could inflict damage on the CSV if he were to set up his own political party. Matic Zorman

Frank Engel, pictured at a press conference on 19 March when he announced his resignation as party president, could inflict damage on the CSV if he were to set up his own political party. Matic Zorman

Former CSV party president Frank Engel, who stepped down just three weeks ago amid claims he misused party assets, has not ruled out forming a new political party in Luxembourg.

The CSV, once the natural party of power in the grand duchy and now mired in controversy and in-fighting, could lose more members if its former president runs with the idea of forming a new party.

Speaking on RTL radio on Friday, Engel said he didn’t want to cause further ruptures in the political landscape, but he recognised that many members no longer identified with the CSV and some had even encouraged him to create a new party.

Engel stepped down as party president on 19 March after party members filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office over a contract he had with the CSV Frëndeskreess, a not-for-profit that owns the CSV’s headquarter, since political parties cannot legally own real estate. Engel received roughly €40,000 over seven months last year for work done for the Frëndeskreess.

Last week it was also revealed that he had received private social security contributions from his party. In its report on the financing of political parties in Luxembourg, published by RTL, the Court of Auditors wrote that “the party paid its president an amount corresponding to the social security contributions that he paid privately…for a period from January 2019 to May 2020.”

The court says the decision to make these payments was agreed between the president and the party’s secretary general and treasurer. However, the CSV has issued a reply in which its then secretary general, Félix Eischen (who at the end of 2020 took a four-month sabbatical for burn out leave), and the treasurer, André Martins Dias, “formally challenge” the court’s statement that the payments were made with their agreement.

Engel, who was elected ahead of Serge Wilmes in January 2019, had already sparked controversy in the summer of 2020 when he suggested in an interview with Reporter.lu that he supported the reintroduction of the wealth tax, the creation of a financial transaction tax and even a reform of inheritance tax. None of these policies had been in the party’s manifesto at the 2018 election. In the end, Engel was forced to row back and even issue an apology to the party’s national committee for speaking out of line. Back then, the Luxemburger Wort, which has close ties with the CSV, had even suggested he should resign over the faux pas.

Now that he has resigned, there does not seem to be any place for Engel in the party. He was elected after the disappointing election results in 2018, when the CSV’s lead candidate was Claude Wiseler--the very man who will now replace Engel when he is formally elected, unopposed, at the party’s general conference on 24 April. A party that has been hemorrhaging support since it lost Jean-Claude Juncker as its leader before the 2013 elections can ill afford such in-fighting.