As he prepares to leave the Presidency of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has been named European Leader of the Year by Euronews and the European Business Summit (EBS).
This may seem a consolation for someone who last March, during a press conference said “I believe in heaven and I have never seen hell, except when I was doing my my job”.
He was answering a reporter who had quoted Donald Tusk, then president of the European Council, claiming that “there was a special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without even an inkling of a plan for carrying it out safely”.
During his tenure, Juncker has been widely criticized by British pro-Brexiteers as well as the media. Especially when he suggested that Theresa May failed to set out a clear vision in the attempt to rescue her controversial Brexit deal in December 2018.
To be fair, it should be said that Brexit overshadowed most of Juncker’s positive achievements concerning the economic stability of the eurozone, as well as other matters.
Blaming a man in his mid-sixties for indulging in Bordeaux wine, or characterizing him as ‘the master of lies’ as one journalists did by comparing him to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, seems to somewhat lack decency.
After all, during his five-year term as President of the European Commission, he had to face multiple economic and political torments that plagued Europe. Among these, Brexit has probably been the most challenging issue in Europe’s political history.
As always in politics, it is the lessons from history that will determine Europe’s future, as well as the achievements of its leaders. Many will be relegated to the dustbin of history, while others will be remembered for their courage as political leaders, who sought to get Europe out of its inextricable dilemmas and challenges.
As for Jean-Claude Juncker, it is certain that without his tireless efforts, many stumbling blocks would have remained, to be faced by the next President of the European Commission.
Let us, as a final farewell gesture, mention his last words during his State of the Union address in 2018.
He quoted French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “I like things that go together. In order to stand on its own two feet, Europe must move forward as one. To love Europe, is to love its nations. To love your nation is to love Europe. Patriotism is a virtue. Unchecked nationalism is riddled with both poison and deceit”.
Adding his own thoughts, he said: “In short, we must remain true to ourselves. The trees we plant today must provide shade for our great grand-children whether they hail from East or West, from South or North. To give them all they need to grow and breathe easily. A few years ago, standing in this very same spot, I told you that Europe was the love of my life. I love Europe still and shall do so forever more”.
Whether he decides to go fishing or enjoy visiting French wine cellars during his possible retirement, or even head back to politics again, we wish him fair winds and following seas.