Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

Oettinger rebuffed by Juncker over Greece comments

Guenther Oettinger is known for his public statements being more in line with the German government than the EU commission.

But his latest comments on Greece made Friday (20 February) in an interview with German radio Deutschlandfunk crossed the rubicon, forcing his boss Jean-Claude Juncker to publicly distance himself from him.

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

  • It is the first time Juncker takes such an open stance against one of his commissioners. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

"Mr Oettinger voiced his private opinion, this has not been agreed with the commissioners concerned, nor with President Juncker," Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas said in a press conference on Friday.

It is the first time Juncker has taken such an open stance against one of his commissioners.

Earlier in the day, Oettinger told Deutschlandfunk that the Greek politicians behaved "like elephants in a china shop", that their bailout request may be just a "diversion" and that he completely shared the view of the German finance minister, who had flat out rejected their bailout extension request saying it lacked commitments on reforms.

But Juncker on Thursday - through his spokesman - had said the request was "a positive sign" after having spent days phoning Athens, as well as Berlin and the Hague in order to broker a deal.

Schinas on Friday said Juncker continues to be involved and that it was his two economics commissioners - Valdis Dombrovskis and Pierre Moscovici - who will represent him at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels the same day, a last-ditch attempt to come to an agreement.

"Even by Oettinger's standards, he's gone way farther this time than ever before. Perhaps he is preparing to leave and doesn't care anymore," one EU official told this website.

It is not the first time the German commissioner - who is in charge of the bloc's "digital agenda" - has spoken outside the remit of his portfolio and in contradiction to Juncker.

Last year, he caused an uproar when he wrote an op-ed in French and British media calling France a "deficit recidivist" and saying the commission should be tough when judging its reform efforts.

But back then, his spokesman said that Oettinger had informed his boss before sending the text.

Privately, EU officials familiar with the situation told EUobserver that Juncker's chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, was "enraged" when he read the text, which had already been sent to press. Yet they chose not to publicly distance themselves from Oettinger at the time.

In the previous EU commission, where Oettinger held the energy portfolio, he also engaged in similar side-steps.

In one interview with the German mass tabloid Bild, in 2011, he suggested EU institutions should fly their flags at half mast for the countries who are in excessive deficit.

He later apologised for the comment.

Investigation

VW lobbyist met German EU commissioner

VW spent €2.8m on lobbying in Brussels in 2015. Earlier this year, it met with commissioner Oettinger to discuss "diesel emissions", even though it's not his portfolio.

Focus

EU commissioners at odds over geo-blocking

EU digital commissioner Andrus Ansip and his fellow commissioner Gunther Oettinger are at odds with one another over the need to abolish the practice of restricting online content based on someone's location.

Opinion

EU's weird uncle spoils the party

Oettinger's China gaffe caught the headlines, but his and his colleagues' broader disregard for European values pose a bigger threat to EU legitimacy.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to batter against EU wall on Brexit
  2. Hungary and Slovakia break EU line on Jerusalem
  3. Germany and France to overhaul EU competition law
  4. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  5. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  6. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  7. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  8. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  2. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  3. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  4. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  5. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  6. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  7. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  8. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us