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16th Feb 2019

Juncker lashes out at 'ridiculous' EU parliament

  • Juncker at a previous Strasbourg session. That time with more MEPs in the room. (Photo: European Parliament)

[Updated at 17.15 on 4 July] European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker lashed out against the "very ridiculous" European Parliament, in a debate that only a handful of MEPs attended on Tuesday morning (4 July).

Juncker was in the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg for a debate about the outcome of the six-month Maltese presidency of the Council of the EU, which ended on Friday.

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But when he took the floor, around 9.15 in the morning, the room was almost empty.

"The European Parliament is ridiculous, very ridiculous," Juncker said straightaway.

"I salute those who made the effort to be in the room. The fact that about 30 deputies attend this debate demonstrates sufficiently that the parliament is not serious," he went on.

There are 751 MEPs in total.

Speaking about the Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat, who was also there to report on his government's work during the EU presidency, Juncker added that "if Mr Muscat was Ms Merkel (chancellor of Germany) or Mr Macron (president of France), we would have a full house."

Juncker's angry comments at the EU parliament on Tuesday morning

"The parliament is totally ridiculous," he repeated, banging into the microphones in front of him, before being interrupted by the parliament's president, Antonio Tajani.

"Please, Mr president. You can criticise the parliament, but the commission is not going to control the parliament. It's the parliament that has to control the commission," said Tajani, a fellow member of the centre-right EPP party.

"There are only few members to control the commission. You are ridiculous," Juncker insisted.

"I ask you to use a different language. We are not ridiculous," Tajani angrily retorted.

"I will never again attend a meeting of this kind," said a visibly upset Juncker.

"The commission is under the control of the parliament, but the parliament has to respect even the presidencies of smaller countries," added the EU commission chief, referring to Malta, the smallest EU state. Juncker was the prime minister of Luxembourg for 18 years, a country of just over 550,000 inhabitants.

While Muscat witnessed the angry exchange between the two EU institution leaders with a smile, both Juncker and Tajani were applauded by some of the MEPs who were in the room.

Tajani and Juncker met later and the commission president said that he regretted the language he used, according to the parliament's spokesman.

"Tajani considers the case closed," Jaume Duch said on Twitter.

"This is what happens when passionate politicians speak from the heart," commission vice president Frans Timmermans told journalists in the afternoon.

He said that Juncker wanted to stand up for small countries, "because their prime ministers deserve the same amount of respect".

Last month, MEPs already came under criticism when Hilda Heine, the president of the Pacific's Marshall Islands, spoke about climate change and the threat it poses to her country in front of an almost empty plenary room.

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