The cover of this week’s Spectator says “the people vs the EU” and Jean-Claude Juncker is certainly warming to that theme. Just in case the Italians were in any doubt how they are regarded by the president of the European Commission he made it pretty clear yesterday. When asked what the EU could do for Italy, he said that the problem was not the EU’s because it was down to Italians to help the South of Italy – and these Italians, he said, need “more work, less corruption, seriousness”. And no, he wasn’t talking about the government but the actual Italian people. Easier to look down on such people when you’re not elected.
UPDATE After protests from Antonio Tajani, an Italian who is president of the European Parliament, Juncker’s officials has been claiming via Twitter that his words were taken out of context. In the spirit of the EU’s recent drive to “tackle disinformation online” here is the relevant transcript:
Mr Juncker, you said that the EU has to deliver and I was wondering how you think the EU can even better deliver for young people, for example in the south of Italy where many of them are still out of work. How can the EU reconnect to younger citizens in order to re-energise Europe, also in light of the European elections and the threat of populism?
Juncker: I am in deep love with Italy: Bella Italia. However I don’t accept that all the things goingwrong in the South of Italy, in the Mezzogiorno, can be explained by thethe EU or European Commission not doing enough. Italians have to take care of the poorer regions of Italy. That means more work. Less corruption. Seriousness. We will help them, as we always have done, but don’t play this game of loading with responsibility the EU.”