Poor MEP attendance for Malta’s end-of-presidency speech raises Juncker’s ire

Jean-Claude Juncker lashes out at ‘ridiculous’ European Parliament after only 30 MEPs turned up for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s end-of-presidency speech

‘This parliament is ridiculous!’ – an angry Commission president Juncker tells European Parliament
‘This parliament is ridiculous!’ – an angry Commission president Juncker tells European Parliament

Malta has always had a tradition of ending events with fireworks, and the tradition continued even today in Strasbourg as sparks flew between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President, Antoni Tajani – both from the EPP family.

The cause? The MEPs’ poor attendance for a plenary addressed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the end of Malta’s presidency of the council of the European Union.

This is not the first time that a small turnout discusses matters concerning Malta – the same happened during a debate on the rule of law – although Malta’s successful presidency may have inspired few MEPs to make the meeting.

Somewhat feeling embarrassed as Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat sat next to EU affairs minister Helena Dalli inside an almost empty chamber, Juncker lashed out at “the ridiculous parliament” with “no respect for smaller countries”.

“I would like to welcome those who actually took the trouble to come… but the fact that there are 30 MPs present in this debate only illustrates the fact that this EP is not serious,” Juncker, a former prime minister of tiny Luxembourg, said.

To deliver his message home, Juncker argued that more MEPs would have turned up if Muscat was Germany’s Angela Merkel or France’s Emmanueal Macron. Muscat could be spotted savouring the moment.

But the European Parliament’s president refused to have another institution’s president call out his MEPs: “Please Mr President, can you have a more respectful attitude? You may criticise the Parliament, but the Commission may not control the Parliament: it’s the Parliament that controls the Commission.”

The comment prompted the applause of some of the MEPs, as the camera caught PN MEP David Casa grinning and clapping.

Juncker, known for his brash attitude, scoffed at Tajani’s comment: “Only a few members in the plenary to control the Commission… you are ridiculous.

 “I will never again 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, something which the parliament is not doing.”

Later, a tweet by Tajani showed the EP president thanking Malta for “making progress on key priorities that concern EU citizens”, whilst the EP’s director general for communication and spokesperson stated that the two presidents held a meeting and that “President Juncker regretted the words used in the debate this morning. Case closed.”

But if for the EP the case is closed, not the same can be said for the European People’s Party (EPP) who “are going to adopt a public stance” over what happened.