The former President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, claimed the EU should forge a friendly relationship with Britain after months of post-Brexit tensions. The Luxembourgish politician insisted eurocrats shouldn’t act in the “spirit of revenge” and called for calm at a time when tensions between the EU and UK are at a new high. In recent months, his successor Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to blockade shipments of Covid vaccines headed for UK shores and a trade war over Brexit rules for Northern Ireland.
Mr Juncker said: “British citizens have taken the historical decision to step away from European integration. That has been done, we have to respect that decision.
“And, frankly, we need a relationship with Britain.”
He also recalled his pitch for a “fair deal” for the UK, adding: “I think these two entities, Britain on the one side and the European Union on the other side, don’t have the right to forget they have a common history.”
Mr Juncker, who served as European Commission President between 2014-2019, has previously called for tensions between Brussels and London to be cooled.
And it is not the first time the eurocrat launches a thinly-veiled attack on how Brussels operates.
In 2007, Mr Juncker suggested the EU is surviving with a crippling dilemma.
After finding himself in the midst of one of the many all-night sessions where European politicians were trying to decide on the next step to take to fix the problems of the eurozone, the then Luxembourg finance minister said: “We all know what to do.
“We just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”
According to a 2008 economic report by the European Commission titled ‘Defying the Juncker curse: Can Reformist Governments be re-elected’, the above quote, attributed to one of Europe’s former leading policymakers, revealed two things.
The report reads: “First, politicians are deeply aware of the need for structural reform in Europe – in particular in the euro area where structural reform has actually slowed down since the inception of the single currency.
“Second, yet they are reluctant to bite the bullet out of fear to lose the next general elections.”
Over the years, there have been many attempts to restructure the bloc and Mr Juncker championed a few of them.
In March 2017, after the Brexit vote, the idea of having different parts of the EU integrating at different levels and space underwent a revival.
Encouraged by French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Juncker released a five-point view of possible courses, looking forward to the year 2025.
The points, among which Mr Juncker expressed no preference, “range from standing down from policing of government financing of companies, for example, to a broader pullback that would essentially strip the EU back to being merely a single market”, according to one report.
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The updated possibilities would entail member countries or groups of countries adopting different levels of participation with the union.
The European Commission was approaching a March meeting of the 27 members in Rome and Mr Juncker’s paper addressed the options that “once invited scorn from convinced Europhiles” and seemed maybe even to have some backing “of lifelong federalists” like the President.
Despite receiving backing though, the idea appears to have been dropped.