Monday

26th Jun 2017

Attacks mount against 'master of lies' Juncker

  • 'Can this man be trusted?', the German-language press are asking (Photo: Council of European Union)

Criticism is mounting against eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker for lying about a secret meeting last Friday of select EU finance ministers in his native Luxembourg to discuss the worsening Greek debt situation.

On Monday (9 May) a series of furious attacks on the chair of the group of EU states that use the single currency appeared in the German-language press, arguing that Juncker can no longer be trusted.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Ministers and their spokespeople across the eurozone had first denied or refused to comment on a report which appeared in Spiegel Online revealing that a secret meeting of senior EU officials was being held in a Luxembourg castle to consider a Greek exit from the euro.

The same officials later confirmed that the meeting took place, but that Greece returning to the drachma was never on the table. Juncker it appeared had invited finance ministers from France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, ostensibly under the aegis of the EU members of the G20 (although the UK, a G20 member, was absent), along with Greece, the European Central Bank and Olli Rehn, the EU economy commissioner.

Juncker's spokesman, Guy Schuller, was quoted by Reuters as saying: "I totally deny that there is a meeting, these reports are totally wrong."

The development comes after the Luxembourgish prime minister admitted the week before during a Brussels conference on economic governance that over the course of his career, despite his Catholic upbringing, he often "had to lie" in order not to feed rumours and that economic policy was too important to be discussed in public. "I am for secret, dark debates," he quipped, according to an EUobserver report.

German press agency DAPD has quoted him as saying: "When the going gets tough, you have to lie."

On Monday, Austrian daily Der Standard attacked the Luxembourg prime minister as a "master of lies", also complaining that Juncker had invited the larger EU states but not the likes of Austria or Finland, describing the move as "a fatal error that multiplies the scepticism of the citizens."

"Juncker and his Round Table should be reminded that it was the small states in May 2010 that made the rescue package for Greece possible in the end."

Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung meanwhile complained that no one can believe what EU leaders, but particularly Juncker, say regarding the stability of the eurozone any more.

"Seldom have we seen politicians acting as irresponsibly as they did on Friday evening. In Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Luxembourg, officials were silent, deceptive or just plain lied," the paper thundered.

"Within a matter of hours, the governments of the euro countries managed to fritter away the last remaining trust the people of Europe still have in the bailout action."

"Who in the future is supposed to believe that Greece isn't interested in leaving the euro zone if Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the Euro Group, is taking the lead on the deception?"

A frustrated European diplomat told EUobserver the handling of the meeting was "amateur", adding: "What happened is silly. How is anyone going to trust what we say now?"

Meanwhile, Greek authorities are going after Spiegel Online for reporting "false news" about Greece considering withdrawal from the euro.

The Greek prosecutor has contacted German counterparts, requesting assistance in tracking down those responsible at Spiegel Online for the initial report.

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is to visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the Greek conundrum and EU Council President Herman van Rompuy will also be dropping in on the German leader to consider the next steps in the crisis.

The meetings will not take place in secret in a Luxembourg castle, but in Berlin.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that Chancellor Merkel was to travel to Brussels. In fact, the two EU presidents are to travel to Berlin.

Finnish PM could replace Juncker as Eurogroup chief

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has invited select EU leaders and ministers to a "winter retreat" in Finland in a potential lobbying opportunity for the top job in the eurozone.

EU approves rescue of Italian banks

The European Commission gave the green light to a €17-billion plan by the Italian government to save Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca.

Row between EU ministers halts e-book tax rate

A bill to reduce VAT rates on e-books and e-publications has become the latest victim of a row between the Czech Republic and its partners over its own plan to collect VAT.

Focus

EU and China move to fill US void

At a summit in Brussels, EU and Chinese leaders will attempt to deepen ties on trade and climate as US president Trump plans to pull out of the Paris climate deal.

Italy reaches EU deal on failing bank

After months of negotiations, the European Commission and Italy agreed on the terms of rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, including job cuts, salary caps and private sector involvement in the bailout.

News in Brief

  1. British PM closes government deal with Northern Irish party
  2. Merkel on collision course with US at G20 summit
  3. Schulz outlines German election strategy, hits out at Merkel
  4. Berlusconi's party sees comeback in Italian local votes
  5. Low turnout in Albanian election set to mandate EU future
  6. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  7. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  8. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  3. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  4. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  5. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  6. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  7. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  8. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  9. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  10. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  11. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?

Latest News

  1. China's slow foray into Central and Eastern Europe
  2. Estonia presidency and Google fine This WEEK
  3. UK previews offer on EU nationals' rights
  4. EU approves rescue of Italian banks
  5. Cohesion policy for a stronger Europe
  6. Cheap meat is a bigger problem for climate and health
  7. Ministers to reject minimum parking spaces for electric cars
  8. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders