Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, lost his cool this week during a plenary debate at the European Parliament.
Only around 30 MEPs attended the plenary session, on Tuesday 4 July, to review the Maltese presidency of the European Council, which ended on 30 June.
The EP has 751 members.
The review was presented by the Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and Juncker was scheduled to speak as well.
“The European Parliament is ridiculous--very ridiculous. I would like to welcome those that have actually taken the trouble to turn up this morning. The fact that there are only 30 MEPs present in this debate illustrates plainly that the European Parliament is not serious. I wanted to say that today. If Mr Muscat was Ms Merkel, this would be inimaginable--or Mr Macron--we would have a full house! The parliament is totally ridiculous!”
Juncker was referring to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Emmanuel Macron, the French president.
He was then interrupted by the president of the EP, Antonio Tajani, who replied:
“I would ask you to have a more respectful attitude towards the parliament. You can criticise the parliament, but it’s not the commission that has to control parliament, it is the parliament that has to control the commission.”
Juncker said afterwards:
“I will never attend a meeting of this kind. The commission is under the control of the parliament, but the parliament has to respect even the presidencies of smaller countries, which the parliament is not doing.”
Sven Giegold, speaking on behalf of the German Greens, criticised Juncker’s outburst and called for an apology. He called the former Luxembourg prime minister’s behaviour arrogant and self-righteous, and said the commission president was damaging European democracy if he boycotted the EP.
However, Giegold admitted that Juncker was right when he said the smaller member states were less interesting for MEPs than bigger ones. The behaviour of MEPs mirrors however only the actual power relations in the council between the member states, Giegold commented in press statement on 4 July. Because important decisions were negotiated between bigger member states, smaller member states have little influence.
Giegold stated that Juncker should criticise the decision-making structures in the council instead of rebuking parliament.