Monday

11th Nov 2019

Juncker dismisses criticism of Brexit performance

  • Tusk (r) defended Juncker (l) on Brexit (Photo: consilum.europa.eu)

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he “doesn’t care” about criticism of his handling of Brexit and told Austria to “stop messing around” on complaints that he bypassed national MPs.

“Some have said that I interfered in the Dutch referendum on Ukraine and some others have criticised me for not becoming involved in the UK issue and frankly, I don’t care”, he told press after an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday (29 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“I have no intention of being influenced one way or another by this kind of criticism”, he said.

He said that he had stayed out of the national UK debate at British prime minister David Cameron’s request.

His reference to the Dutch referendum came after he told Dutch people in April that it would cause a “continental crisis” if they rejected an EU-Ukraine trade treaty. Dutch voters later rejected the treaty.

EU Council chief Donald Tusk, who also attended Wednesday's press briefing, defended the commission chief.

He said Juncker had negotiated the best deal possible on the UK's reformed EU membership prior to the British referendum.

"I don’t understand this kind of thinking," he added, referring to those who blamed the commission chief.

Leaders and ministers from some central and eastern European states had, prior to the summit, said that Juncker should resign over Brexit. Poland also said that Tusk should step down.

Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo repeated the idea on Wednesday, but in less strident terms than before.

“Politicians must take responsibility for their work … political responsibility for what happened among those around the table yesterday was voiced only by [British leader] David Cameron. That’s all I wanted to say at this point”, she said.

Hungarian leader Viktor Orban said it was the wrong moment to attack the commission chief.

“It would be cheap and unchivalrous to attack the EU commission president in such a situation. We won't do it”, he said.

"Hungary will not call for personal consequences,” he said.

He said he “understood” Juncker’s “frustration” that leaders, such as Cameron, constantly complained about the EU. “Brussels is full of frustrated people”, he said.

But he added that neither Hungary or the UK had backed Juncker for the EU job in 2014.

He also said that further EU integration, such as the new election-linked process that led to Juncker’s elevation, was one reason for British euroscepticism.

“These smaller episodes played a part in the bigger drama, the exit of the UK”, Orban said.

Austria criticism

Juncker and Orban had earlier fallen out over a commission plan to impose migrant relocation quotas on member states.

Juncker and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern are currently at odds over the role of national MPs in the ratification of an EU trade pact with Canada, also known as CETA.

The commission opted to ratify it directly without the 28 national EU parliaments, but Kern said that the Brexit crisis showed people wanted more national say over EU decisions.

Juncker said on Wednesday that he felt “duty bound to bring this [trade pact] to the moment of ratification”.

He said G7 leaders and all EU leaders individually had urged him to do the same.

“To say I had a personal preference that national parliaments shouldn’t have a say is absurd”, he added. He said that he “respected Austrian democracy”, but told Kern to “stop messing around”.

US trade deal

Kern continued his criticism at the EU summit.

Contradicting Juncker, he told press that the leaders of Germany, France and Luxembourg shared his point of view.

He also warned that if the EU failed to win public support for CETA, then it would jeopardise the success of an EU-US trade pact, known as TTIP, which is being negotiated.

"If you approach CETA in this way then I have no doubt that TTIP will immediately be buried as well," Kern said.

French president Francois Hollande voiced similar views.

He told journalists that national parliaments should hold debates on the Canada agreement. "It takes more time, but it is part of what we must offer to the democratic debate," he said.

Juncker to critics: 'I'm not tired or sick'

The EU commission chief brushed off calls for his resignation over his personal style and his handling of the UK vote. Some fear his departure would aggravate the crisis.

Juncker's EU vision to focus on security

Juncker will aim to please southern states by talk of investment, and others by talk of deeper security cooperation in his first big speech since the Brexit vote.

'Germany does not want Juncker to resign'

Elmar Brok, a senior german MEP, has denied reports that Berlin wanted the commission chief to go. But names of potential replacements - Schulz, Timmermans, Katainen - are doing the rounds.

News in Brief

  1. EU's climate contribution exceeds €20bn annually
  2. EU-Singapore trade deal enters into force this month
  3. Commission will not probe Borrell over Catalan tweet
  4. Frontex gets its European border police force
  5. EU Parliament loses funding case against Farage-led party
  6. US will not impose car tariffs, says Juncker
  7. Merkel disagrees with Macron on Nato
  8. Migrants in Malta transferred after EU deal

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

EP president threatens MEP with sanctions over a tweet

The president of the European parliament, David Sassoli, has threatened the leader the leftist GUE/NGL group, Manon Aubry, over a tweet in which she encouraged the eco-activist group Extinction Rebellion to occupy the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  2. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark
  3. MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay
  4. Erdogan: refugees will enter Europe unless EU does more
  5. Cleaning up both the EU and Western Balkans
  6. Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?
  7. Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria
  8. EU and China agree to defend 'gastronomic jewels'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us