Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Juncker: Greece should avoid 'wrong outcome' in elections

  • Juncker said he spoke to Amazon when he was PM, but not about taxes (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Greece against electing "extreme forces" into power and said he would prefer "known faces" - so far the strongest intervention of the EU top brass in the Greek campaign.

"I think that the Greeks - who have a very difficult life - know very well what a wrong election result would mean for Greece and the eurozone," Juncker said during an Austrian public tv debate with EUobserver and several other Brussels-based journalists.

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

He steered clear of explicit political advice ahead of presidential elections in Greece next week but said: "I wouldn't like extreme forces to come to power."

The presidential elections - to be held in the Greek parliament on 17 December - could trigger early parliamentary elections, if there are three failed attempts to elect a president.

The far-left Syriza, which wants Greece's debt erased and an end to austerity measures, is topping the polls. Markets are already jittery at the prospect of Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras coming to power.

Asked if Syriza and Tsipras qualify as "extreme forces", Juncker replied: "I would like Greece to be ruled by people who have an eye and a heart for the many little people in Greece and who also understand the necessity of European processes."

"Each party who stands for election has to live up to these standards and I won't comment on the chances of one or the other party, but I would prefer if known faces show up," he added, in an apparent reference to Greece's former EU commissioner, Stavros Dimas, who is standing for election on behalf of the ruling coalition.

In a showcase example of being the more "political" entity that Juncker promised, the EU commission has all but endorsed Dimas.

“The decision can help remove uncertainties around markets, it is a strong signal to Europe that prime minister Samaras put forward his candidate Stavros Dimas, a former commissioner and a convinced European,” said EU commission spokesperson Annika Breidthardt on Wednesday.

Breidthardt denied taking sides in the election, but said that "at this point we feel like we want to make a statement about the Greek forthcoming elections".

France and LuxLeaks

Juncker also admitted that the decision to give Italy and France three extra months to fix their national budgets was "political" and a proof that his commission is not a "machinery run by bureaucrats who are blind to national matters."

"We would have been massively criticised if we had applied the pact simply like that. We would have a totally different discussion now," he said.

He conceded that his reputation has been dented by the LuxLeaks scandal (revealing tax avoidance schemes for multinationals in Luxembourg while he was PM), but insisted that he did nothing illegal at the time.

"I had contact with those firms [Skype, Amazon] when we tried to diversify the structure of Luxembourg's economy. But I never got involved in the tax rulings, because that is not allowed for a Luxembourg finance minister, the law prohibits that he uses his influence on specific tax files," he said.

Asked what he talked to Amazon about, if not about a favourable tax regime, he said: "We spoke about infrastructure, pipelines, what kind of qualified staff we can provide, how we can train them. But we didn't talk about the precise tax questions, because it is not something for the government, it is for the tax administration."

"I am responsible for everything that happened in Luxembourg during my time as prime minister, I've said it and I repeat it. I am constantly forced to defend myself as Luxembourg prime minister, but if I did that, people would remind me that I am no longer PM, I am now EU commission president," Juncker said.

Juncker seeks to bypass vetoes on tax reform

EU commission chief Juncker has indicated he will try to bypass member states’ veto powers over fiscal issues when he proposes new laws to clamp down on tax avoidance.

All eyes on Greece as presidential elections begin

Greek MPs are gathering for a first attempt to choose a president, with EU officials concerned about the prospect of snap elections and a sweep to power by the far-left Syriza party.

Greek PM offers compromise on elections

Samaras has offered to bring forward parliamentary elections and include independent MPs in government in a bid to secure a majority for his presidential candidate.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

News in Brief

  1. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  2. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  3. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  4. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  5. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  6. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution
  7. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  8. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  2. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  3. A new Commission for the one percent
  4. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  5. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  6. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  7. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  8. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us