Thursday

22nd Nov 2018

Commission makes no judgement in China race row

  • "We have to listen to what Guenther Oettinger has to say," the commission's spokesman said. (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission declined on Monday (31 October) to comment on declarations by commissioner Guether Oettinger that were considered as offensive to China and Wallonia.

The EU executive spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists that Oettinger gave "detailed information" about the incident in an interview to German daily Die Welt and that the institutions had "nothing to add".

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

Oettinger, the German member of the commission, was filmed at a meeting with business people in Hamburg last week using a German equivalent of "slant eyes" to refer to Chinese people.

He also joked about members of a Chinese delegation in Brussels who had their hair "combed from left to right with black shoe polish”.

The commissioner told Die Welt that the video has been edited and his words taken out of context. He admitted “a somewhat sloppy statement" but said it was "in no way meant disrespectfully towards China”.

Schinas said he would "refrain from any characterisation or value judgement that one can make on the explanations" given by Oettinger.

"We have to listen to what Guenther Oettinger has to say," he said. 

He added that the commission's president, Jean-Claude Juncker, did not ask his commissioner for explanations because he was "100 percent busy with Ceta", the EU-Canada trade deal that was signed on Sunday.

He also said that no further question would be asked because "we don't have an FBI at the commission to investigate commissioners".

Oettinger was also reported as saying that Wallonia, the Belgian region that delayed the signing of the EU-Canada trade agreement, was “a micro-region run by communists that blocks all Europe”.

But that comment is not on the video and Schinas explained that there should be a distinction between what is really said and what is reportedly said.

"Wallonia is governed by its democratically elected leaders," he said when asked who were the communists mentioned by Oettinger. Wallonia minister-president Paul Magnette is a Social-Democrat.

He insisted that the commission had "the highest respect for all Europe's regions that are primordial for Europe's competitiveness and cohesion".

On Sunday, Juncker had himself taken a jab at Walloon leaders. He said "the commission's interlocutor is not the Walloon region, but the federal Belgian government", adding: “Belgians should think pretty carefully about how it works in the context of international trade negotiations.”

The controversy over Oettinger's remarks comes as he is about to be promoted vice-president of the commission, in charge of budget, to replace Kristalina Georgieva who is taking a job at the World Bank.

Oettinger was due to go to Greece on Monday, but the visit was cancelled, due to "unexpected commitments", Schinas said while refusing to say what kind of commitment.

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.

Oettinger apologises over China insults

The future commission vice-president admitted in a statement that his words "have created bad feelings and may even have hurt people".

Investigation

Oettinger left no trace of VW Dieselgate meeting

EU commissioner for the digital economy and society, Guenther Oettinger, met with German carmakers in January to discuss "diesel emissions", even though the topic is not in his portfolio.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

News in Brief

  1. UK shell firms at heart of Danske Bank scandal: whistleblower
  2. Google pledges transparency on EU political ads
  3. EU urges Hungary to respect law on Macedonia PM 'asylum'
  4. Bannon's EU campaign illegal in nine countries: report
  5. EU court overturns Austria's anti-migrant law
  6. Kosovo punishes Serbia with trade tariffs in Interpol row
  7. Italy happy to 'confront' EU on budget
  8. Spain threatens Brexit deal over Gibraltar

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  9. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  10. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  11. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue

Latest News

  1. Revealed: 98% of EU 'expert groups' take place in private
  2. EU commission warns Italy on budget, moves towards fines
  3. Challenges for new Franco-German eurozone plan
  4. EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection
  5. Deutsche Bank dragged into Danish bank scandal
  6. New EU human rights sanctions to focus on Africa
  7. Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election
  8. EU parliament to renege on transparency promises

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us