Jean-Claude Juncker criticises 'ridiculous' European parliament

Outburst from European commission chief over empty seats in chamber provokes rebuke from parliament’s president

The head of the EU’s executive body has described the European parliament as ridiculous after only a few dozen MEPs turned up to a debate.

The outburst from the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, earned him a rebuke from the parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, who said: “We are not ridiculous.”

The spat unfolded in Strasbourg, where rows of empty seats in the vast plenary chamber made plain that most of the parliament’s 751 members were elsewhere.

The session was dedicated to assessing Malta’s six months in the EU presidency chair, which ended last week.

Juncker accused MEPs of failing to show respect for a small country and said there would have been a full house if Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron were in parliament.

“I would like to welcome those that have actually taken the trouble to turn out this morning, but the fact that there’s about 30 members of parliament present in this debate only really illustrates the fact that parliament is not serious in this,” said a cross-looking Juncker.

He was interrupted by Tajani, who sharply told him to show a more respectful attitude, saying: “You may criticise the parliament, yes, but the commission does not control the parliament, it is parliament who should control the commission.”

Juncker retorted: “There are only a few members in the plenary to control the commission. You are ridiculous.” Overriding Tajani’s interruption, he added: “I will never again attend a meeting of this kind.”

Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, smiled and seemed bemused by the clash. Philippe Lamberts, of the Greens group, was seen applauding Juncker.

The commission cannot compel MEPs to attend parliament but the testy exchange means more people will be counting MEPs in seats when Estonia’s prime minister, Jüri Ratas, is in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The unusually public row overshadowed a discussion on migration, as the EU struggles to forge a common response to the thousands of people arriving from north Africa.

Countries on Europe’s southern borders blame some central and northern states for not doing enough to share the cost of managing refugees and migrants. “When it boils down to real effective solidarity, we as member states should all be ashamed of our record,” Muscat had said earlier.

“Many people looking at the EU would conclude Europe was a failure on this issue,” he added.


Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed as European commission president

Former Luxembourg prime minister wins 422 votes from 751-seat parliament as focus moves to filling other top EU roles

Ian Traynor in Brussels

15, Jul, 2014 @12:51 PM

Article image
Jean-Claude Juncker criticises EU over Covid vaccine spat with UK
Former European commission chief also says bloc has been too cautious in its procurement

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

25, Mar, 2021 @12:44 PM

Article image
'Stop bashing the EU', Jean-Claude Juncker tells European leaders
EU commission president says politicians should stop blaming the bloc for issues it cannot control as he lays out plan for future

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

01, Mar, 2017 @3:28 PM

Article image
Merkel backs Jean-Claude Juncker for European commission president
Move deals blow to David Cameron's attempts to block Luxembourg's former prime minister from taking up the role

Philip Oltermann in Berlin

30, May, 2014 @3:23 PM

Article image
Jean-Claude Juncker: consensus-seeker at centre of European row

Juncker says his talent for building bridges qualifies him for top job in Brussels, but criticism of his candidacy has been ample

Philip Oltermann in Berlin

01, Jun, 2014 @4:41 PM

Article image
Give Jean-Claude Juncker a chance | John Bruton
John Bruton: This practical man marries diplomacy and conviction. David Cameron can and should do business with him

John Bruton

25, Jun, 2014 @5:00 AM

Article image
UK should expect a very hefty bill for Brexit, says Jean-Claude Juncker
European commission president uses salty language to warn PM that Britain will not be able to negotiate ‘cut-price’ exit from EU

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

21, Feb, 2017 @3:41 PM

Article image
EU is facing existential crisis, says Jean-Claude Juncker
In his address to European parliament, president of the European commission will announce plans to unite Europe

Jennifer Rankin in Strasbourg

14, Sep, 2016 @8:13 AM

Article image
Italy's Matteo Renzi joins stand against Jean-Claude Juncker for European post

Debate likely to continue until autumn, with David Cameron seen as having blundered by moving so quickly against frontrunner

Ian Traynor in Brussels

01, Jun, 2014 @4:25 PM

Article image
Merkel ally hoping to succeed Juncker says European identity is key issue
German politician Manfred Weber becomes first to throw his hat into ring to become next European commission president

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

06, Sep, 2018 @10:00 PM