Civil servant, syndicalist and a politician by conviction

Jos. Schaack’s vest matches the color of the sky – light blue: we have reached the end of April, the sun is shining, and Luxembourg is hoping for a spring like last year, when the country was in strict confinement.

We sit on the terrace in the garden. The former secretary of state, civil servant and trade unionist is aware that he belongs to those that are privileged:

“It is very clear that these are difficult times, for example for families with children living in a small apartment.” Jos and his wife feel well taken care of: “The government has brilliantly overcome this unique crisis.” And once the bill has to be paid? “Then the broad shoulders should bear more than the narrow ones!”

No 1st class for the soldier J.S.

Jos.’ father worked on the railroad. As a little boy, he lives in a house of the CFL in Petange, which is shared by two families. “I had a beautiful and happy childhood. I had joined the boy scouts at the time, but football was always my number 1.” As the family moves into town, Jos plays. in the youth of the Union at ‘Verluerekascht’. He graduates from the ‘Jongelycée’ in Limpertsberg. Immediately afterwards, in 1965, he has to serve in the army for 8 months. The compulsory service had been reduced that year; in 1968, it was completely abolished. Well done: “The army was not at all my world, I was against it. And I’m still proud today that I was among the two people in the company who did NOT graduate first class. To me, that was a kind of personal award.”

Role model Daleiden

From the uniform, the path led immediately to the tax administration in 1966, where Jos. Schaack starts as a civil servant. From the taxation of natural persons, he went on to the companies and finally to the revision service.

“I felt good there. My work was interesting and useful and gave me an overview across our society.”

In the civil service, Jos. then committed to the CGFP. Even today, he is still full of appreciation when talking about former president Jos Daleiden: “Jos was a role model for me. An accessible, correct and helpful man. You could always rely on him.

The acquisitions of the civil service would not have been possible without the CGFP and without Jos Daleiden.”

At 23, Jos. Schaack married Andrée Hentzen. They had 2 children, Danielle and Philippe. They moved from Belair to Bertrange, where the couple still lives today. “I was often asked to get involved in municipal politics, but I did not want to choose sides at home.”

Pacta Sunt Servanda

However, this was about to change when in 1998 the CSV-LSAP government decided on a controversial pension reform in the public service. The DP supports the civil service under the slogan Pacta Sunt Servanda, and Lydie Polfer and Henri Grethen ask Jos Schaack if he wants to run in the 1999 elections. Together with CGFP colleagues Ferd Milbert and Fernand Gatti, Jos. Becomes a candidate on the DP list. “The civil service was in a desperate situation and could expect nothing more from the government at the time. Some of us had to go out and restore social cohesion!” says Jos. quite agitated even today, as he bangs his hand on the table.

You must vote for Xavier

The civil servants finally ensure that the DP comes out as the big winner of the elections. It comes to the Juncker-Polfer government. Jos. gets 7 votes less on list 3 than a certain Xavier Bettel. “That was because I had told my entire family that they absolutely had to vote for Xavier,” Jos recalls and laughs wholeheartedly. He is appointed Secretary of State in the civil service and for the administrative reform. “We worked well and, among other things, ensured a normal treatment of civil servants again. We also negotiated two salary agreements.”

He still does not understand the defeat of 2014.

Full circle

Immediately after the last Government council meeting, Jean-Claude Juncker asks Jos. Schaack to become the new director of customs. A ground which the former tax official is no stranger to, especially at EU level. “We had an excellent atmosphere. I was very, very happy at customs.” However, unlike some of his predecessors, he never wore a uniform. “That would not have suited me.” Finally, the circle of his professional career closed with this job.

Ever since his retirement in 2008, Jos. Schaack is fully enjoying his spare time which he spends reading, travelling, and doing sports. And most of all, he likes to spend time with his 5 grandchildren …


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