Monday

15th Apr 2024

MEPs call for German commissioner to apologise or resign

  • Guenter Oettinger - his mentioning of "unconventional ideas" in the Bild interview has not gone down well (Photo: European Parliament)

German commissioner Guenter Oettinger's foray into the busy world of commenting on the eurozone crisis has backfired spectacularly with a group of angry MEPs demanding he retract his words or resign.

In a letter sent Wednesday (14 September) to commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, 151 MEPs said Oettinger's comments "imply the symbolic humiliation of European nations".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Mr Oettinger should retract and recant his words, or resign from the European Commission," it added.

The commissioner, whose portfolio is energy issues, made the faux pas in an interview with German tabloid Bild where he raised the suggestion of putting the flags of deficit-sinning countries at half-mast on the EU institutions.

"That would only be a symbol but it would have a high deterrent effect", said the commissioner.

MEPs from Greece, Ireland Portugal - all bailed out by the EU and IMF - have been at the forefront of the complainants. Portuguese Green MEP Rui Tavares instigated the letter while Irish liberal MEP Marian Harkin called the flag idea "ludicrous and misguided".

The commissioner's comments come at a time when the EU executive has been mindful of the effects of careless statements on countries, such as Greece, which have been undergoing harsh austerity measures in order to qualify for EU loans.

The only commissioners that regularly comment on the situation in the struggling eurozone countries are Barroso himself and economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn.

On Wednesday, Oettinger's spokesperson entered into a long discussion with journalists about where the flag idea came from.

"I was there when he gave the interview ... he did not say, I propose this, he said yes there are ideas on the table and among these ideas he mentioned also the flags. It was never his personal idea. He referred to existing ideas".

One of the ideas that Oettinger did raise himself was that as Greek authorities "cannot manage" to collect taxes or sell state-owned goods then "qualified civil servants" from other member states could be sent to do the job instead.

They could act "without regard to resistance" suggested the commissioner, who already has something of a reputation for being outspoken.

Last week, when referring to whether the EU should consider the democratic credentials of a country when looking for oil deals, he replied: "If we say we're going to treat only with countries which are full democracies, we may as well just park our car in the garage."

During the nuclear crisis at the Fukuyama plant in Japan earlier this year, he said there is risk of an "apocalypse".

Meanwhile, Barroso's spokesperson said the president will "give attention to this letter and will reply to it as soon as possible".

Greece unveils fresh cuts as euro pessimism spreads

The Greek government has unveiled a fresh round of austerity measures amounting to €2 billion as pressure mounts on the country to deliver on its commitments to reduce its debt-load.

Agenda

EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK

EU leaders gather in Brussels for a special two-day summit this week, while MEPs will prepare for the last plenary session of the legislature. In Italy, G7 foreign affairs ministers will convene from Wednesday to Friday.

UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

EU and UK negotiators said that a new post-Brexit settlement for Gibraltar was just weeks away from completion following four-way talks in Brussels on Friday (12 April).

Agenda

EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK

EU leaders gather in Brussels for a special two-day summit this week, while MEPs will prepare for the last plenary session of the legislature. In Italy, G7 foreign affairs ministers will convene from Wednesday to Friday.

Latest News

  1. How German police pulled the plug on a Gaza conference
  2. EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK
  3. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  4. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  5. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  6. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  7. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  8. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us