In this month’s portrait, we were able to visit the Ministry of Foreign affairs to interview the current Deputy Pime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, Mr. Xavier Bettel.
In his stunning office adorned with art and memorabilia from his decorated career, and a terrace overlooking a picturesque Pfaffendall, Mr. Bettel hosted us in a relaxed environment. Despite a busy schedule, between trips to Israel and Japan, the acclaimed politician gave us some insights into his professional past and future.
From milestone to milestone
A man whose political career began when he was first voted into the Chamber of Deputies 25 years ago, at the tender age of 26. Not having looked back since seeing a plethora of different prestigious roles within Luxembourgish politics. Although, prominent on the national political spectrum, he made a name for himself through municipal politics. In 2005, Bettel was appointed alderman in the city council of Luxembourg City, holding the position for several years. Following the communal elections of the 9th of October 2011, he was sworn in as Mayor of Luxembourg and became a household name. However, it was in 2013 where he gained international notoriety, becoming the prime minister of the Grand-Duchy and held the position until October 2023.
"There have always been new challenges, and I enjoyed taking them on. All I can say is that if there is something that you enjoy doing, then it becomes considerably easier to do. I have been lucky enough to always take pleasure in what I have done at the time of doing it. I enjoyed being prime minister, and I am passionate about what I am doing now."
Even after the many years of serving the country, there seems to be no letting up. "I was just asked if I wanted to take a position in Brussels, which is very kind and gives me pleasure, but I am happy here!".
This comes amid talk of Mr. Bettel succeeding European Council President Charles Michel, who will be stepping down to run in June’s elections to the European Parliament. Turning down one of the top EU jobs, speaks volumes of his commitment to the Grand-Duchy.
Natural born leader
Having led the country for over a decade, Mr. Bettel is no stranger to challenges and asked which was the most difficult he encountered during his tenure, the COVID pandemic was the swift reply, a period which saw him face many threats from the public he recounts. "It was difficult on a human level. It was intellectually challenging, and I know that there was a lot of hate around". Limiting people’s freedom and telling people how to act when there were so many questions to which there were simply no answers. Indeed, the former prime minister did not work in the scientific sector and even the people that did, did not have answers to the questions, which was an aspect he found particularly onerous.
Despite these major challenges, Mr. Bettel lead our country through one of the largest humanitarian crises since the Second World War. His impact on the pandemic was felt internationally as well, most notably at the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, addressing all world leaders in a moment of need, concerning the impacts of Covid-19 on both the society and the individual. Showcasing leadership to the world from the small Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, allowing future Luxembourgish politicians to dream big!
As a decisive leader, here is his advice to anyone aspiring to be head of a country or even run a small business:
"No matter which position you find yourself in, you must know you’re only as strong as your team! It is the team that is strong, not an individual. A leader pulls people with him, he pulls people with him by sharing success with them".
These are the values that set him apart as a leader and he has been able to establish a long career in such a role, by not taking the plaudits for himself but sharing them among his team.
Mr Bettel sat in his office
A man of the people
With Luxembourg being the size that it is, it seems as though almost everyone has a tale of an encounter that they have had with the current deputy prime minister. A very approachable man, seemingly having time for everyone at all times. But what is it like to be known by almost everyone in the country, does it leave any time for the all-important work life balance? Combining a social life with such an important role within politics as Minister of Foreign Affairs can be no easy task especially with trips to Japan, Laos, Costa Rica and El Salvador among others coming up soon. Apparently, the key lies in the organisation.
"I organize my time. What’s always been important to me, no matter which role I was in, is finding time for private occasions and just try to live in a very normal way. People are always surprised when they see me at the Super Drecks Këscht, but I have to go. The same when they see me at Cactus, but I need to eat and I need to use the bathroom like everybody else", he joked, but he finds time for himself, also mentioning that he enjoys going round friends for dinner with his husband.
But what if politics had not worked out? We are Luxembourg’s number 1 job board after all, so which career path would he have chosen?
"Before getting into politics I was a lawyer, I would have continued with a career in law. It was important to me to always have a certain level of freedom. The day that I do not want to continue with politics then I will stop".
Full of enthusiasm, full of life and after a quarter of a century in politics there is still plenty more to come, an inspirational man having experienced things that most people can only dream of. What the future holds for Mr. Bettel is still to be seen but for the time being Luxembourg is his main concern.
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