European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted the European Union has tried to take too much power from national governments, contributing to the rise in populist movements.
In an interview with Time magazine, Mr. Juncker acknowledged some decisions were better taken by national governments, and that people were reacting against this.
When asked why populists were making gains in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, he responded: “I think this is largely due to our faults.
“I think the European Union and the Commission gave the impression that we are in command of everything.
“We were trying to have influence in so many things which are better in the hands of national, local and regional authorities.”
He also said he was concerned mainstream parties would begin following the populist ones, something he suggested could spell the end of the European Union (EU).
“If traditional parties are saying exactly the same thing, then we are lost. We have to say the contrary. The populists are spreading slogans. We have to offer solutions and answers.”
Mr. Juncker also hit out at U.S. President Donald J. Trump, accusing him of being “highly unfriendly” towards the bloc after saying other countries could leave the EU after Brexit.
“We were a little bit disappointed listening to President Trump’s first declaration when he was congratulating the British for having taken that decision, and more or less inviting others to do the same.
“That was highly unfriendly and not helpful at all.”
When asked how he would respond to this, Mr. Juncker said: “Do we have to respond? If we invited Ohio to leave the United States, would they respond? I don’t think so, so we don’t have to respond to that.
“We have to show to the world – as far as the future of the European Union is concerned — that we are united.”
The Commission president also dismissed the idea that the EU needed Britain to act as a “bridge” to the U.S., saying: “To put it brutally, we don’t need the United Kingdom government to organize our relations with the U.S. and in fact according to President Obama, Britain is weaker being outside the European Union than being a member of the European Union. That is the case.”
Populist parties are on the rise across continental Europe. In France, Front National leader Marine Le Pen is polling in first place for the preliminary round of this year’s presidential election, with one computer program now forecasting she may even win the final run-off.