Home News Jean-Claude Juncker: “The role of the EU is not to be moral...

Jean-Claude Juncker: “The role of the EU is not to be moral to others”



German Chancellor Angela Merkel is by far the current European leader who has held power the longest. She helped the European Union through the migration crisis, but also those of the euro and Covid-19 ” s. But what is its European record ? We discussed the subject with another European official who has been in office for a long time : former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Efi Koutsokosta, euronews :

“Can you share with us, some of your memories of those years you worked together ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker, former President of the European Commission :

“He is someone who has a lot of humor. Although she is known in Germany for being a down-to-earth and serious personality, in reality she was imitating her colleagues all the time, including me. But she never imitated me in front of me. She perfectly imitated Sarkozy, Trump and others. She was a real artist in her imitations.”

“I had major arguments with Angela Merkel”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“But do you remember any altercations you may have had with her during all these crises ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“I had altercations with her… Perhaps not “altercations”, but major disputes, mainly about Greece because the Germans, his own parliamentary group and the German press did not respect the dignity of the Greek people. So I explained to her that Greece was different from her idea of it.”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“Would you say you convinced her ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“No, I tried to do it. I succeeded with the help of other people, especially the then French President François Hollande, but also thanks to the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble who was a friend of mine and a very pro-European man. He wanted to temporarily exclude Greece from the eurozone. I was fiercely opposed to this idea. Angela Merkel never joined it either, but she never denied the interest of this idea. In the end, she always reasoned with a longer-term perspective. She thought it could lead us into troubled waters with Italy and others.”

“Her greatest failure is the reluctance she showed during the Greek crisis”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“What do you think was his greatest achievement and greatest failure ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“I believe that her greatest failure was the reluctance she showed during the Greek crisis because because of her hesitations and reluctance, we lost time. Greece could have been helped earlier.”

“Her greatest achievement is the role she played in the refugee crisis”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“Outside Greece, in general, what was his greatest achievement ? The most important aspect in its European balance sheet ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“Her greatest achievement, from my point of view, was the role she played in the refugee crisis in August-September 2015. She was against the idea of closing the German border between Austrian Tyrol and Bavaria. Because again, she had a certain perspective in the way she approached this major crisis. She said to me on the phone in August-September 2015 – and we spoke very often all these years – ” What would the image of the European Union and Germany be on the outside if we closed the borders, if we put soldiers and police on the border with Austria to push these poor people away ?”Many of them came from Syria, others from Afghanistan, from all over. They were poor, desperate people. And she was doing this against the advice of a majority of German public opinion and her own CDU parliamentary group. A leader is someone who can say” no ” to his own side.”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“So she is a leader from this point of view.”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“Yes, indeed. You ask me what Angela Merkel’s record in Europe is. Well, she definitely anchored Germany in Europe, she made it clear to German voters that Europe was part of the German raison d’etat. This is her greatest achievement because after her it will be impossible to have chancellors who are not pro-European.”

“Angela Merkel was listening to all countries, big and small”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“Will Germany be able to keep its leadership in Europe after Angela Merkel ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“There is no German leadership in Europe. This is a view on Germany that Greeks and others may have, but the European Union has never been a group of countries led by Germany. This is a misconception. True, Germany plays a major role : it is the largest country, the strongest economy, the country with the largest number of European neighbors. So Germany must play its part by being at the heart of the continent. It is also very close to Central and Eastern Europe. So it has a role to play regardless of who holds the position of chancellor. Angela Merkel played this role very carefully; I would say, astutely and intelligently because she listened to all countries, whether they were large, medium-sized or small. When I was Prime Minister [ndlr : du Luxembourg] and she, Chancellor, I never had the feeling that she treated me negligently. No, no, no. It made me feel as important as the President of the United States.”

“The EU is not adapting to the world of the future”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“More generally, what do you think Europe will look like in the coming years when the international context is changing ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“The international context is changing, but the European Union is not changing enough. We are not adapting to the world of the future. We do this by looking only at the horizon 2030, 2040. And I think that the international role of the Union must become more important, especially with regard to the international role of the euro, our common currency. We should not be too modest, but we should try not to moral the whole world either. Europe has this defect which consists-when we are in Africa or Asia – in telling others what to do. They don’t like it. Europe’s role is not to set a moral standard, but to set an example.”

Efi Koutsokosta :

“Do we have charismatic leaders to hold the helm ?”

Jean-Claude Juncker :

“This remains to be proved.”



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