The president of the European Fee made what ought to have been a routine look at a Brussels assume tank occasion on Thursday. It ended up moving the financial markets and forcing him into an apology (of types).
That’s typical of Jean-Claude Juncker, a person by no means afraid to go off piste and ship a killer soundbite. (The newest instance was him saying on the best way into Friday’s European Council summit: “I’m not a British prime minister; it could be good for Britain if I used to be.”)
Listed here are a few of Juncker’s finest (or possibly that ought to be worst?) gaffes.
Nervous about Italy
Juncker warned Thursday the EU ought to be ready for the “worst” in Italy after the March four election. “We’ve got to brace ourselves for the worst state of affairs and the worst state of affairs could possibly be no operational authorities,” he mentioned at an occasion organized by the Centre for European Coverage Research. He additionally warned of doable fluctuations on the monetary markets after the vote, which most polls predict will finish in a hung parliament.
The Fee boss’s remarks appeared to have their affect on the markets: The unfold between Italian and German 10-year bond yields, a gauge of Italy’s borrowing prices and of market confidence within the Italian economic system, widened to 138 factors from 134 initially of the day.
Even because the prime minister of Luxembourg I used to be in Macedonia … I imply FYROM” — Jean-Claude Juncker
In a press release issued later Thursday, Juncker tried to clean issues over. “Regardless of the end result, I’m assured that we’ll have a authorities that makes positive that Italy stays a central participant in Europe and in shaping its future,” he wrote.
On Friday morning, Juncker mentioned as he entered the summit that whereas he felt he had been “completely misunderstood,” his feedback had been however “deceptive.”
Don’t point out the M-word
Don’t name Macedonia “Macedonia” is a reasonably fundamental, if seemingly absurd, one for an EU chief. Till Greece and its northern neighbor attain an settlement (yeah, proper) it’s formally the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Guess who forgot (whereas standing subsequent to Zoran Zaev, the Macedonian PM)?
“I’m assembly presidents and prime ministers from the Western Balkan international locations,” Juncker said last December. “Even because the prime minister of Luxembourg I used to be in Macedonia … I imply FYROM.”
He did have the nice grace to look appalled on the error.
Complicated his spouse with Merkel
A double fake pas right here (or a Boris, because it’s generally recognized) from final July. At a press conference in Brussels with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Fee Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, the European commissioner from Slovakia, Juncker’s previous Nokia telephone rang.
Juncker presumed it was his spouse calling, and in contrast to former U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who famously answered the telephone when his spouse referred to as in the midst of a 2007 marketing campaign speech to the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation, Juncker declined the decision. He shortly realized it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, not his spouse, whom he had declined to reply.
Calling MEPs “very ridiculous”
A contentious one, this, as “ridiculous” is a phrase many have used to explain the European Parliament. It’s extra uncommon to listen to it from a Fee president talking within the Parliament.
In July 2017, Juncker accused the European Parliament of displaying a scarcity of respect for smaller international locations after solely a tiny variety of MEPs confirmed up for a speech by the Maltese prime minister.
“I salute those who have taken the difficulty to be within the room,” a visibly livid Juncker mentioned to the largely empty chamber in Strasbourg. “The European Parliament is ridiculous, very ridiculous,” Juncker added. “The truth that about 30 MEPs are seated on this debate is sufficient to present that the Parliament is just not critical.”
It sparked a multilingual conflict with Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who angrily defended the Parliament, saying it managed the Fee not the opposite manner round, At first, Tajani implored Juncker in Italian: “I encourage you to have a respectful conduct.”
Juncker, who slapped the air angrily along with his palms as he spoke, was having none of it.
“There are only some members,” he shot again at Tajani, switching to English from French. “There are only some members within the plenary to manage the Fee. You might be ridiculous! I need to pay tribute to the Maltese.”
You assume many imagine what it says in POLITICO. That’s clearly not the case” — Jean-Claude Juncker
Being unable to maintain observe of Romanian PMs
One other contentious one as seemingly most Romanians have now been their nation’s prime minister.
“[Viorica Dăncilă] is the fifth Romanian prime minister I had the pleasure to host from the start of my mandate,” Juncker mentioned on Wednesday throughout a joint press convention with the latest holder of the highest job in Bucharest, who took workplace final month. “I would love this cycle be stopped and that she stays longer as a result of I begin to lose observe of all these I’ve seen.”
Dăncilă is the third prime minister from the governing Social Democrats because the social gathering received a parliamentary election in December 2016.
Calling out Luxembourg on tax
Final November, Juncker traded blows with the Luxembourg authorities over its reluctance to again an EU tax plan in opposition to on-line giants like Google and Amazon. Juncker informed Luxembourg’s Paperjam, “it’s a historic mistake to not need to tax on the acceptable ranges the earnings of multinational corporations which act globally and don’t pay the taxes they owe.”
Grasp on a minute, is that this the identical Jean-Claude Juncker who was prime minister of Luxembourg for nigh-on 20 years and underneath whose watch the grand duchy struck sweetheart tax offers with among the world’s largest corporations?
‘Whats up, dictator’
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán isn’t everybody’s cup of right-wing tea (U.S. Senator John McCain labeled him a “neo-fascist dictator”). But it surely was nonetheless odd to listen to a European chief greet him with the phrases “Hello, dictator” at a summit in Riga in Could 2015. Whereas Juncker’s greeting was picked up by the cameras, Orbán’s response was not — in all probability for the most effective.
All that kissing
On the similar Riga summit, Juncker’s touchy-feely-kissy style was on full show. He accosted a procession of leaders, showering them with kisses, hugs, necktie-grabs and even an insult or two — in a meet-and-greet that will by no means be equaled in European politics.
France is France on finances reform
In 2016, the European Fee gave France leeway on fiscal guidelines “as a result of it’s France,” Juncker mentioned. Within the pre-Macron period, that went down relatively badly with Germany and the thriftier members of the eurozone.
The EU’s fiscal guidelines require a finances deficit underneath three p.c of GDP. The Fee in 2015 gave France two extra years to convey its deficit under that stage however it failed to take action. Requested why the Fee had turned a blind eye to French infractions, Juncker informed French TV that it did so “as a result of it’s France.”
It’s OK for politicians to lie
In Could 2011, whereas nonetheless holding the reins in Luxembourg, Juncker informed a gathering of the federalist European Motion that he usually “needed to lie” and that eurozone financial coverage ought to be mentioned in “secret, darkish debates.”
Having a go at POLITICO
Within the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, Juncker was requested to answer requires him to stop for failing to influence the U.Ok. to remain within the EU. “You assume many imagine what it says in POLITICO. That’s clearly not the case,” Juncker mentioned. A 12 months earlier than, he mentioned this newcomer to Brussels practiced “peep-show journalism.”
Granted, the Fee president in all probability doesn’t acknowledge both incident as a gaffe. Or he would possibly discuss with the journalist Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe as “when a politician tells the reality — or extra exactly, when she or he unintentionally reveals one thing truthful about what’s going on in his or her head.”