Étienne Schneider (LSAP) on Monday morning confirmed that he will resign from government on 4 February 2020, eight years after he first took the role as minister for the economy. Rumours had been circulating since last week that Schneider, who is joint deputy prime minister with Déi Gréng’s François Bausch and also minister for health, would be stepping down following a story by Reporter.
But, contrary to what Reporter wrote, Schneider has dismissed suggestions he would be joining the board of Arcelor Mittal. He has also ruled out any return to parliament and any high-ranking civil service post (Schneider was first councillor at the economy ministry before he took over the cabinet post when minister Jeannot Krecké resigned in 2012).
Schneider said that since the rumours of his departure were first made public he had received several calls with job offers, but he had refused them all – he wants to take a sabbatical to have time for himself and reclaim his private life.
It was Schneider who first mooted the idea of limiting cabinet posts to two terms, which became one of the three questions in the 2015 constitutional referendum but was soundly defeated by 70% of Luxembourg voters.
He had wanted to announce his departure early in the new year, but had come under pressure from party colleagues, most notably foreign minister Jean Asselborn, to clear the air after the Reporter article was published. The LSAP will now have to find a new cabinet minister and decide who it will nominate for the economy and health portfolios. The coalition will also have to agree on who will replace Schneider as deputy prime minister.
The party’s president Franz Fayot is being touted as the obvious choice for a promotion to government, while Asselborn has the necessary experience to take up the role of deputy prime minister (a role he held from 2004 to 2013 under the premiership of Jean-Claude Juncker). But nothing is certain in politics and the LSAP has other MPs eager to make their mark like Yves Cruchten, who could also be in the frame for the vacant cabinet post come February.
And the coalition may feel fresh blood, and maybe even a woman, is needed at the deputy pm level. It would be a bold move to appoint someone like minister for development and cooperation Paulette Lenert, especially as her appointment to cabinet in 2018 after she had not even been a candidate at the election angered the young socialist youth wing of the LSAP. But, then again, Schneider was also an unelected official when he was first made minister eight years ago.