Monday

22nd Apr 2019

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.

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us