Wednesday, November 13, 2019

‘They spit at me in street’ Juncker opens up as reign as EU chief nears end | World | News

The Commission President, who is expected to step down next month, said he wants to be seen as approachable to EU citizens and tourists but this sometimes backfires. After putting his retirement plans on hold while his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, while she puts together her team of European commissioners, Mr Juncker says he enjoys his reputation amongst EU citizens. He claimed that he enjoys the limelight and takes around 200 pictures a day, many of them “selfies” with tourists.

He said: “You know I take an estimated 200 photos a day. Yesterday I came out of the hotel where I stayed in Brussels, and suddenly there are 50 Kosovars at the door. And they’d all like to have a selfie.

“I’ll do it then. Because I say to myself: Europe does not have such a good reputation if I’d be snobbishly approach people, space there, blue lights and stuff.

“How would that work? So I do selfies, I prefer them too, than to let you spit on me. That also happens, but most of the time it gets caught. The bodyguard.”

Mr Juncker also reveals that Brexit talks have proved to be a “difficult phase of European governance” but have produced a route out of the bloc for Britain.

But now he believes that Britain will finally leave the EU on January 31 after negotiating a fresh withdrawal agreement with Boris Johnson.

While some EU politicians are hopeful for a Brexit U-turn, Mr Juncker said: “They are approaching this exit gate and realise that it is narrower, than they thought, and there’s a long hallway behind it.”

The Brussels bureaucrat said he disagreed with Mr Johnson’s negotiating strategy because he couldn’t visualise an outcome for the talks.

“Johnson always says that we should luck ourselves in a dark tunnel and keep talking until we see the light again,” he said.

“I am against a tunnel when I do not know whether in the end there’s not a terminus coming. This will be a difficult phase of the European governance.”

In an interview with German newspaper Sueddeutsche, Mr Juncker denied he had done Mr Johnson a favour by reopening the withdrawal agreement.

The eurocrat said: “There was a great danger that a hard Brexit would occur. Such a chaos would be neither in the interests of the British nor in the interests of the EU.”

During the general election, Mr Juncker has promised to not interfere but still claims it was a “mistake” not to have intervened during the Brexit referendum campaign.

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Speaking to the BBC, he said Britain would have to leave the EU with the current deal and thinks this could happen on January 31.

“I do think it will happen but this is a too-long story, it has to be brought to an end,” he said.

Mr Juncker also cast doubt on whether a trade deal could be agreed by December 2020.

He said: “I don’t want to be a prisoner of this time framework.

“It takes time to negotiate a free trade agreement. Sometimes I have the impression that British people, parliamentary and governmental representatives do think this is an easy thing to be done.

“It’s not easy because we’ve been negotiating for years with Canada, it will take time.”

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