Frieden’s nomination must be officially confirmed at a party congress in March, but this is largely a formality. Frieden follows prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) and deputy prime minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) in declaring himself ready for the top job.
The current director of the Chamber of Commerce will have to step down from mandates at the Banque Internationale à Luxembourg and Eurochambers to pursue his political ambition. Frieden had long been considered a successor to Jean-Claude Juncker (CSV) but then the party was ousted from government in 2013.
On the day of his nomination, Frieden spoke with Delano’s sister publication Paperjam and here are ten takeaways from that conversation.
Frieden said he didn’t expect to be asked to lead the CSV into the 2023 elections. “I thought about it for a long time,” he said. “But they convinced me that my experience in the public sector, in the major ministries--justice, defence, finance--as well as my experience in the private sector--Chamber of Commerce and financial sector--give the necessary tools to contribute to shaping the future of the country.” The party’s co-presidents, Claude Wiseler and Elisabeth Margue--approached Frieden in December last year, who agreed mid-January.
Break from politics was a good thing
“I needed new energy, to change ideas,” said Frieden about his departure from politics after the 2013 elections, which saw the CSV pushed from government to the opposition bench. The job at the Chamber of Commerce in particular had given him a new perspective on the business environment, which he said needs faster decision-making processes and a fiscal and regulatory environment that allows them to develop.
Coalition has run out of steam
“We’re seeing that the government doesn’t have the necessary energy to move forward,” Frieden said. “There are obvious blockages within the current coalition.” The three government parties are pulling in different directions, he said, for example in the area of housing or taxation.
Sustainable and inclusive growth
“I want people to pay less taxes but live better; but, to achieve this, there must be an economic environment that allows to create good jobs that pay good salaries--that’s how I understand sustainable and inclusive growth.” Luxembourg’s economy and financial centre must be competitive, Frieden said. The welfare state must be strong but selective and supporting those in need. The environmental and digital transition of the economy must be supported by a “Marshall plan” to succeed, Frieden said.
A “new” CSV
“I want to lead the list of a new CSV, which has a clear and coherent line, in both the economic and social areas.” Frieden said he wants to involve the party’s younger generations in leadership and run the country based on a responsible and reasonable programme, “and not based on an ideology from 30 years ago.”
Involve new Luxembourg nationals
“I’m the author, as minister of justice, of the law on dual nationality,” Frieden said, adding that he wants to connect more with those who recently became Luxembourgers. “All of that is the new CSV: a party that includes, that makes policies for the whole of the population and especially the middle classes.”
“Labour, housing, taxation, health.” These will be the priorities in this election, Frieden said. Taxation and housing are top of that list. “You must ensure that people have more net income,” he said, adding that the tax burden for middle income households must be reduced. “You must make sure that people, no matter their means, can have affordable housing.” At the same time, public finances must remain stable, Frieden said.
While the LSAP is looking at backing a reduction of working hours--depending on the outcome of a feasibility study--Frieden sided with the DP on this divisive issue. “Work-life balance is an extremely important subject. But we also have a problem of labour shortages.” Frieden advocated more flexibility within companies over a reduction of working hours.
Possible coalition pathways
The CSV currently is the biggest group in Luxembourg’s parliament and Frieden said he hopes to bring the party back to the seat of power after ten years in the opposition. Frieden would not comment on the likelihood of entering into a coalition with Xavier Bettel’s DP, but said that any coalition would have to be based on the election programmes and what they have in common.
Frieden’s nomination must be confirmed at a party congress at the end of March. “I will dedicate the coming weeks and months actively contributing to our election programme.” And Frieden plans to tour the country, choosing bottom-up ideas over top-down leadership, he said.
The full interview was conducted by Pierre Pailler and first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited by Delano’s Cordula Schnuer.