Politics: Prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker has not proffered his resignation after giving a detailed defence of the accusations that he failed to properly control the secret service
Jean-Claude Juncker was in defiant mood on Wednesday afternoon during a speech in which many thought he may offer his resignation. Instead, he has said it is up to parliament to decide if he should carry the consequences of personal responsibility for the mistakes he has admitted making in not properly controlling the secret service.
The prime minister addressed parliament for close to two hours on Wednesday afternoon following a speech by François Bausch of the Greens, who delivered the parliamentary commission report into the workings of the Luxembourg secret service (SREL).
Bausch said the report into what he called dysfunctional working of the SREL was the most difficult he had ever delivered to parliament. The report concluded that the prime minister bore responsibility for the fact that the SREL became a law unto itself.
Juncker took to the speaker’s stand suffering from the heat--and joking it was this that was making him sweat rather than fear. He admitted that before becoming prime minister in 1995 and taking over responsibility for the SREL he had not given the world of the secret service much thought.
“I had to learn a whole range of new terminology,” he told parliament. Even then the secret service had not been his highest political priority, and, borrowing from Brecht’s Life of Galileo, said that it would be a sorry country for whom that were the case. “At that time, and even now, I had plenty of other things to do--other problems to deal with.”
The prime minister went on to catalogue a series of detailed rebuttals and excuses against several points listed in the report. He also listed a number of positive steps he had undertaken to reform the secret service. Indeed, reform had been on the cards until 9/11, Juncker said, when the world of intelligence gathering around the world altered radically.
But Juncker denied that he had ever ordered surveillance on political opponents in Luxembourg nor covered up any illegal activity carried out by SREL.
As for political responsibility, Juncker said he had made some mistakes--such as, with hindsight, not suspending Marco Mille after he found out that the then SREL boss had secretly recorded a conversation between the two using a voice recording wristwatch. If he had, Juncker explained, the secret service would have been wothout a director for some time, which would have given a poor image to other countries.
The prime minister asked where he should be held accountable for the actions of all 60 SREL agents. He explained that they were highly paid state employees and he thus trusted them to get on with the job if he gave an order.
Juncker argued that if ministers were held responsible for every action of each of the bureaucrats under their charge, then the government would soon be depleted. “But if you think differently, then vote so,” he said as his parting shot.
The debate about the SREL continues and if the opposition parties stick to their guns may well lead to a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.