Mr Juncker wants our pity as well as our money

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The latest entry in John Redwood’s Diary discusses the European Commission President’s recent press conference on Greece

Mr Juncker’s 29th June press conference is already infamous for his parting jibe that the Greeks should not commit suicide because they are afraid of death. There is a serious problem of suicide levels in Greece thanks to the economic misery the Euro and its policies have created. This made the remark crass. Talking of mortality as a simile for the Euro and its policies also showed a curious lack of judgement.

As remarkable was the way Mr Junker decided to talk about the crisis as being about him. He explained how personally saddened and aggrieved he felt by the events of last Saturday. He felt betrayed by the failure of the Greeks to respond to all his personal efforts to bring about a deal. (Je suis profondement afflige, attriste, par le spectacle qu’a donne L’Europe samedi dernier…..apres tous les efforts que j’ai deployes…je me sens un peu trahi parce qu’on prend insuffisament en compte mes efforts personnels…). Highly paid officials do not usually vent their feelings in public about complex negotiations they have to conduct on behalf of their organsations. Mr Junker is paid around £300,000 a year in salary, expenses and benefits to be a professional. Most people could put up with a few difficult meetings for such a large public reward from taxpayers.

In the wider scheme of things Mr Junker’s feelings are of little significance. They do, however, reveal the growing gap between the lives and views of the EU ruling class and many of the voters and taxpayers who have to pay their salaries and live under their unsuccessful policies. The suicide comment is Mr Junker’s “let them eat cake” moment. It could prove to be almost as memorable as its predecessor should Greece dig in and be forced out of the Euro by its lack of cash, the intransigence of the rest of Euroland and its own high spending and borrowing inclinations. Mr Juncker’s personal quest for recognition and for our sympathy for his hard and so far fruitless work to find a compromise or agreement is more a sign of incompetence than proof of a worthy and trusted official who has been treated badly.

Perhaps Mr Juncker should now apologise to the Greek people for his remarks. His closing words in his press conference were a direct appeal to the Greek voters in their forthcoming referendum. He tells them to vote Yes whatever the question. As far as he is concerned he says the real question that the referendum decides is whether Greece stays in the Eurozone. The Greek government say the question is the one they put on the ballot paper, which is about whether to accept the last offer from the rest of the Euro area or not. His speech implies he thinks the question is whether the Greek people come to recognise the talent and hard work of their EU President of the Commission, and whether they give him carte blanche to override their government and sentence them to a few more years of Euro austerity.

Click here to read this piece in John Redwood’s Diary.

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