Juncker’s Sound of Silence

New European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has yet to respond adequately to the revelation that, under his leadership, Luxemburg made deals enabling multinational corporations to avoid taxes. If Juncker does not respond effectively – and soon – the scandal could eclipse his five-year term at the EU's helm.

BRUSSELS – The new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had barely moved into his new office when his telephone began ringing off the hook. Juncker knew who was calling: journalists around the world were seeking answers regarding the revelations, made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its media partners, that Luxembourg’s government under Juncker had struck a series of tax-avoidance deals with multinational corporations at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. And Juncker was not picking up.

For a senior politician at the center of a media firestorm, silence is the wrong response. After all, when 86 journalists from major newspapers in 45 countries spend 15 months combing through 2.5 million records concerning 120,000 companies and 130,000 wealthy individuals, they are unlikely to settle for “no comment.” If Juncker does not start a frank conversation soon, he risks eclipsing his five-year term with scandal before it has even begun.

To be sure, Juncker did eventually speak to the press, even acknowledging that he should have spoken out when the so-called “Lux leaks” first emerged. But his brief statement came almost a week after the allegations emerged, and showed a notable lack of concern.

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