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European Union

Juncker on campaigning without borders

Luxembourg's former Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker hopes to head the European Commission after the EU's election in late May. Juncker says it's been quite an adjustment to campaign all across the continent.

DW: You are debating on live television, radio and online for the first time with the other top candidates from European parties. How do you see this new approach to campaigning? Do you think it represents a significant departure from previous European elections?

Jean-Claude Juncker: It's different this time. The European election campaign has become more continental and, as such, more intense for the top candidates. I find it all very exciting. You knew a lot personally about Europe beforehand, but you learn more every day.

Do you find it tiring to conduct this sort of campaign, in which you travel through 28 countries in just a few days?

Yes, it is tiring. Of course! Particularly as someone from Luxembourg, you quickly reach your limit, since you're not accustomed to such a wide-ranging campaign. Even more tiring are the many interviews you have to give.

How do people react when you go to countries you've seldom visited? When you make appearances in Finland or Malta, do people recognize you?

The Maltese know me very well, and the Finns somewhat less so. The Maltese know that I like them very much and that I was heavily involved with supporting Malta's EU accession. After all, when Malta became a member of the European Union, Luxembourg ceased to be the smallest member state. However, the people who I approach or who come to me are generally well informed - although sometimes a bit surprised - that candidates who aren't from their home countries are competing in a European election. But that's now the new normal in Europe.

Jean-Claude Juncker (59) was the prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013 and the long-serving head of the Eurogroup within the EU. In March, the European People's Party named the lawyer and Christian Democrat as their candidate, pitting him against his campaign rivals in televised debates. Along with the German Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Juncker is seen as a favorite to become the next president of the European Commission.

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