Claude Wiseler is a Luxembourgish politician. He has been a member of the Christian Social People’s Party since 1983, and served in the government led by Jean-Claude Juncker until 2013. He attended the Athénée de Luxembourg, before studying literature in Paris.
Amcham: Please introduce yourself to our digital Newsletter so they know your background and career summary.
Claude Wiseler: After completing my studies in literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris, I started my professional career as a language teacher in Luxembourg, before working for the Ministry of National Education. Between 1989 and 1999, I worked as a Government Counsellor for the Ministry of Family and Social Solidarity and the Ministry for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Tourism.
I was interested in politics from an early age on, which is why I became a Member of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) in 1983. A few years later, I was elected Secretary General of the CSV, a mandate I held until 2000. During the legislative elections of 1999, I was elected Member of Parliament. In the aftermath of the legislative elections of 2004, I was appointed Minister of Public Works and Minister of the Civil Service and Administrative Reform. During the next legislative period, I became Minister of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure. Since 2013, the CSV has been the main opposition political party in the Parliament, which led me to go back to being a Member of the Parliament. Between 2018 and 2021, I occupied the position of Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies and was elected President of the CSV in April 2021, a mandate I am still holding.
At communal level, I was elected as a Member of the City council of the City of Luxembourg in 1999 and was appointed Alderman between 2000 and 2004.
What are the values which guide your decision making?
Our political party is guided by our values and not by ideology. The “C” in our name, the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), plays a big role in this. Not to imply a religious affiliation, but to express our values, like the fact that everyone, even if they are different, is entitled to the same respect. All of our policies are based on this fundamental value. We are often portrayed as the “conservative” party – for us, it just means that we want to preserve what is important in life.
How do you assess the strengths and weakness of the Governments response to the Covid crisis?
I am the spokesman of the CSV for all our health-related policies – which means that I had the difficult task to question the Government’s policies during the Covid-crisis. And while these have been incredible challenging times for everyone, it is the role of the Parliament and especially an opposition political party to control the Government’s action. In my opinion, the Government did a good job in the beginning of the crisis and enjoyed our full support in proclaiming the state of emergency. However, the Government has also made mistakes – notably when dealing with the situation in the nursing homes.
How do you assess the governments initiatives to support the economy during the covid crisis period?
The situation was incredibly challenging for a number of enterprises, that were not able to reach their pre-crisis level of activity even months and years after the pandemic had started. We have always been in favor for extending as much help as possible to our companies, because it is essential to keep the economy running and in doing so, to make sure that everyone can keep their job. I believe the Government has done a good job overall in supporting the economy, even if some policies could certainly have been more generous.
What do you think should have been done differently to support local businesses?
Small local businesses have been the businesses suffering the most from the Covid-19 crisis. I am thinking especially of the HORECA-sector. I am convinced that the frantic pace of decision making, whether to relax or tighten the protective measures, has not helped small businesses who have found it very difficult to keep up. Some measures were lifted without any evaluation of their impact! Not everything made sense at the time.
Self employed independents suffered greatly during the covid crisis. What would you have done differently to support them?
The Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) has from the very beginning of the Covid-19 crisis been 100% committed to supporting the self-employed. My fellow party colleagues Laurent Mosar and Marc Spautz have launched several legislative initiatives in the Chamber of Deputies to improve their situation, with little or no support from the Government. Among others, our political party has proposed a replacement income and improvements to the labor legislation.
Considering the fragility of the political solidarity of the current political coalition do you think the CSV as the biggest political party could have done a better job and, if so, how and in what ways would you have done things differently?
The more parties are involved in the decision-making process, the more difficult it becomes to reach one decision. As a people’s party, the CSV is used to finding a consensus between different opinions, so that we maybe have more experience and are quicker in finding common ground.
You and your wife are a unique political power couple who must deal with the stress of geographic separation. What advice have you learned to help others stay connected and united while dealing with these job related stresses of physical living separation?
I don’t know if I would say that we are a power couple! We are both just trying to do our job as politicians the best we can and are both very grateful that the voters have trusted us. I don’t really have any advice to give to stay connected – we are managing the situation by focusing on our work during the week and spending the weekends together.
How do you assess Luxembourg’s attractiveness as an international business center and what steps do you believe need to be taken to ensure this attractiveness is maintained?
Luxembourg and its financial center remain very attractive, but I believe that this attractiveness could fade if the appropriate policies, notably on the fiscal level, are not taken by the Government. The competition is fierce – since Brexit, many other financial centers are trying to take as much business as possible.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I read a lot – especially literature. It’s a habit that I kept from my studies!
What is your favorite comfort food?
I don’t need a lot: There is nothing better than a slice of bread, a good cheese and half a glass of red wine.
What physical fitness activities do you enjoy?
My busy schedule unfortunately does not allow for much free time but I am trying to go jogging in the morning when I can. Especially in the forest – it helps me to start the day with a fresh mind.
In what areas are you optimistic and pessimistic for the future success of Luxembourg and what suggestions do you offer?
Luxembourg can have a bright future but our country has to concentrate on what it knows best: support the financial center, develop the logistics sector, the IT sector, as well as the space sector, be innovative in health policies, support private and public research and help the small and medium-sized enterprises, because they truly are the backbone of our economy.
But a flourishing economy is not the only driver of success. A strong emphasis should be put on social cohesion. People coming from all around the world, living and working together in our small country is what makes us so special and so culturally rich. This is one of the main conditions of our success.
Amcham would like to take this opportunity of thanking Mr Wiseler for this very insightful interview!!