Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

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.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us