Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg who now serves as president of the European Commission, has told TIME magazine that the European Union (EU) is “beautiful” and admired around the world, and says Barack Obama was right to claim the UK would be weaker outside it.
In a wide-ranging interview, the struggling bloc’s chief bureaucrat declared: “We are not proud enough of what we have achieved.”
He claimed that, when travelling in Asia and Africa, he found “people admire what we have managed to do. Europe is beautiful seen from other continents.”
He also disputed U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s prediction that Brexit would be a “wonderful thing” for the UK.
“[W]hen it irons out you’re going to have your own identity, and you’re going to have the people you want in your country, and you’re going to be able to make free trade deals without someone watching you and what you’re doing,” the president had said.
But Juncker struck a defiant posture, reminding TIME that “according to President Obama, Britain is weaker being outside the European Union than being a member of the European Union. That is the case.”
Juncker also bristled at a question about Professor Ted Malloch, the Anglophile “global sherpa” tipped as President Trump’s choice for ambassador to the EU. Malloch had previously advised that Juncker should return to his former status as an “adequate mayor” of Luxembourg.
“I was not a mayor, I was a prime minister,” he objected. He warned that, if Professor Malloch wants to be EU ambassador, he should “watch his words from time to time”.
Earlier this month, a despondent Juncker said he would not stand for a second term as Commission president, predicting the EU would not be able to maintain a united front during the Brexit negotiations.
“The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle [the negotiations]”, he said. “They could promise country A this, country B that and country C something else and the end game is that there is not [a] united European front.
“Has the time come for when the European Union of the 27 must show unity, cohesion and coherence? Yes, I say yes, when it comes to Brexit and Trump… but I have some justified doubts that it will really happen.
“Do the Poles and the Hungarians want exactly the same thing as the Germans and the French? I have serious doubts.”