"You don't learn about the world on Google"

By Pascal SteinwachsLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Jean Asselborn has been Luxembourg's chief diplomat for so long that young people are unlikely to remember any other Foreign minister. Nevertheless, Asselborn, who also wants to run again in the 2023 elections, has still not lost the interest for his nerve-racking job.

The interview with Jean Asselborn had to be postponed several times because of the Foreign minister’s packed agenda, most recently because of a meeting between Luxembourg’s chief diplomat and the U.S. President’s special envoy for the climate, his good friend John Kerry. But then a date was found for the very detailed conversation, which was held after 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening. The city was deserted, as was the Foreign Ministry, where Jean Asselborn welcomed us right on time, even though he had just come from another appointment.

Born in Steinfort in 1949, Asselborn began his political career in his native city, where he was mayor from 1982 to 2004. The socialist politician was first elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1984. In 1989, he took over the chairmanship of the parliamentary group of the LSAP, of which he was party president from 1997 to 2004. After the June 2004 elections, he became Deputy Prime minister and Foreign minister in a CSV/LSAP coalition, a post he retained after the 2009 elections in the Juncker/Asselborn II cabinet. In December 2013, Etienne Schneider succeeded him as Deputy Prime minister in a Blue-Red-Green coalition; however, Asselborn remained Foreign minister – now the longest-serving in the EU and the third longest-serving in the world after the Foreign ministers of Turkmenistan and Russia. In the new Blue-Red-Green coalition, Jean Asselborn remained Foreign minister and is also minister for immigration and asylum.

Lëtzebuerger Journal: You have been Luxembourg’s foreign minister since July 2004. How do you manage to still be motivated after all these years?

Jean Asselborn: (laughs) In my opinion someone who is not motivated, and this applies to cycling as well as to gardening and politics, should pack up. Sometimes, though, and this is especially true for a foreign minister, you have to grit your teeth.

What does a foreign minister do when, because of the corona virus, he is not allowed to go abroad and cannot travel?

It’s not that I don’t travel abroad at all anymore, but meetings, including those in Brussels, have become less frequent. Meanwhile, on Monday of this week, the EU Foreign ministers met again for a face-to-face meeting in Brussels; I think it’s good that Joseph Borrell (the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, ed.) insists on meeting physically whenever possible. In any case, I couldn’t imagine becoming Foreign minister now and never having had the chance to see the world before – I’d be lost. The ones that are going to be now, and they’ve never been in a situation where they’ve done their job on the ground, they don’t understand the world. You don’t learn about the world on Google.

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