- A Eurovision Debate about European elections • may 2014 -


Fact check: Jean-Claude Juncker
Photo: Richter Frank-Jurgen/Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Richter Frank-Jurgen/Wikimedia Commons

“Finland exports 14% of its products to Russia, Germany considerably less.”

(Jean-Claude Juncker, 8 May 2014)

Debating on German television with his rival Martin Schulz, the conservative candidate Jean-Claude Juncker warns that sanctions against Russia would affect EU members differently depending on their economic relations with the country. As an example he argues that Finland exports 14% of its products to Russia, while Germany exports “considerably less”. Let’s check.

Mr. Juncker seems to be exaggerating the importance of exports to Russia as a share of Finland’s exports of goods. Preliminary data for 2013 from the Finnish Statistical Authority reveals that exports to Russia accounted for 9.6% of Finland’s exports. That makes Russia the third most important export destination for Finnish products, after Sweden (11.6%) and Germany (9.7%). In 2012 this share was slightly higher, at 10% of the country’s total exports. Even looking further back through UNCTAD’s database*, we find that in the decade to 2012 the highest share of exports to Russia was 11.6% in 2008.

On the other hand, it is true that Russia represents a much smaller share of Germany’s exports. Preliminary data for 2013 from Germany’s Federal Statistical Office indicates that Russia accounted for 3.3% of Germany’s exports. This makes Russia the 11th largest destination for Germany’s products, preceded by France, United States, UK, Netherlands, China, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Poland and Belgium.

The first part of Mr. Juncker’s statement is off the mark, but the second part is correct: “Almost”.


* To access the data, select Trade structure by partner, product or service-category -> Merchandise trade matrix – product groups, exports in thousands of dollars, annual, 1995-2012 -> select Finland for “Economy” and World/Russian Federation for “Partner”.



“On average, every European will have €545 more buying power per year if this free trade agreement [the TTIP] is concluded”

(Jean-Claude Juncker, 8 May 2014)

Debating with his rival Martin Schulz on German television, the conservative candidate Jean-Claude Juncker advocates for the conclusion of the free trade agreement between the EU and the United States, the so-called TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). To support his argument, he maintains that on average every European would have an extra €545 in their pockets were the agreement to be concluded. Is this true?

Indeed, it seems Mr. Juncker is quoting the independent study carried out on behalf of the European Commission by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, a London-based think tank. The report, published in March 2013, finds that “an ambitious and comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment agreement could bring significant economic gains as a whole for the EU (€119 billion a year) and US (€95 billion a year). This translates to an extra €545 in disposable income each year for a family of four in the EU, and €655 per family in the US”.

Mr Juncker is therefore quoting the correct figure, but is exaggerating the benefits: the extra €545 are expected to benefit a household of four and not every European as he claimed. By this measure, every EU citizen would gain €136 in disposable income.

Moreover, it is also worth pointing out that these benefits are only expected to be reaped by 2027 and only in the most optimistic scenario, where the EU and the US manage to agree on a comprehensive and ambitious agreement. The other scenarios portrayed by the report – and summarised below – indicate that the expected benefits could be significantly lower. In fact, Ferdi De Ville and Gabriel Siles-Brugge have recently argued on the LSE Europp blog that the simulations rest “on pretty shaky grounds,” and that the potential benefits are likely to be much smaller.

Mr Juncker’s statement may have been a slip of the tongue. Nonetheless, the outcome was that he inflated by four the TTIP’s expected benefits, which are already based on the most optimistic scenario: “50/50″.


“When I was a prime minister, I was increasing the Luxembourgish aid development to 1% of the national income”

(Jean-Claude Juncker, 28 April 2014)

During the debate with the other contenders to the Commission Presidency, Jean-Claude Juncker points out that during his 18-year tenure as Prime Minister of Luxembourg, his country’s foreign aid reached 1% of GDP.

But is it true?

So it seems. Using the OECD’s interactive development assistance database with trends from 1960 to 2013 we can track Luxembourgish aid in absolute and relative terms.

As is evident from the graph below, Luxembourg’s Official Development Assistance was worth 0.36% of the Grand-Duchy’s Gross National Income in 1995, when Mr. Juncker was first sworn in. By 2013, when Juncker left office, it had in fact swollen to 1%. In absolute terms, this means an increase from ca. US$100 million to ca. US$400 million. This at a time when overall OECD development assistance fell in relative terms from 0.36% to 0.30%, very far from the 0.7% targets ensconced in various international accords, including the 2005 UN World Summit.

Mr. Juncker’s facts are right and he is rewarded with a “True” by FactCheckEU.




“Agriculture in Europe represents 30 million jobs – it’s our wealth”

(Jean-Claude Juncker, 23 April 2014)

Just how many farmers are there in Europe? After a recent claim from Mr. Bové that the EU is home to 12 million farmers, the conservative candidate Jean-Claude Juncker, visiting French farms on 15 April, maintains that the agricultural sector accounts for 30 million jobs in Europe.

Contradictory as they may seem, both figures are almost right. In fact, Mr. Bové’s number referred to the people working full-time as farmers, while Mr. Juncker is speaking more broadly of the number of jobs represented by agriculture.

A note by the European Commission titled “How many people work in agriculture in the European Union” seems like the right place to start.

Most data sources – the note points out – tend to agree in saying that around 10 million persons are employed in agriculture. On the other hand, the Farm Structure Survey (FSS) indicates that the agricultural labour force accounts for up to 25 million people, fairly close to Mr. Juncker’s number. As the Commission explains, “these very different and somehow contradictory figures are explained by the special characteristics of agricultural employment but also by divergences in scope, methodologies and definitions.”

In particular, the FSS collects information about some categories of workers which are not included in other employment data sources, mainly family and part-time workers. In fact, the survey finds that for 13.8 million people, more than half of the agricultural labour force, farm work accounts for less than 25% of their working time. Moreover, data on the number of indirect jobs provided by the agricultural sector does not seem to be available but could mean that the overall figure is closer to the 30 million mentioned by Mr. Juncker.

The tweet adds that agriculture is the EU’s wealth. While this can be considered more of a political statement, it is worth pointing out that the agricultural sector is estimated to account for only 1.8% of the EU’s GDP.

Overall, Mr. Juncker doesn’t seem to be too far off: “Almost”.



“SMEs generate the highest amount of jobs in the EU”

(Jean-Claude Juncker speaking on France 24, 9 April 2014)

In a TV debate,  Jean-Claude Juncker, the centre-right candidate for the Commission Presidency, claimed that SMEs form the backbone of the EU’s labour market. Is this true?

According to the latest figures from the European Commission’s “Annual Report on European SMEs 2012/2013“, the statement seems indeed to be the case. Figure 7 on page 18 of the document shows that the number of persons employed in SMEs in 2012 amounted to almost 87 million people; whereas large enterprises employed around 44 million people.

SMEs therefore employed 66.4% of the European work force in 2012. It is worth noticing, however, that this figure has slightly declined over the years (it was 88.4 million employed in 2008; 66.6% of the total work force). The total number of people employed by SMEs, on the other hand, has declined constantly through the years.

In terms of net jobs created, a report by the European Commission on “Enterprise and Industry” estimates that SMEs were responsible for the creation of 85% of new jobs in the period 2002-2010.

Overall, Mr. Juncker’s statement can certainly be considered “True.”

Data provided by our fact checking partner FactCheckEU

Data provided by our fact checking partner FactCheckEU

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