The European Commission has lashed out at European Council President Charles Michel after the senior Eurocrat accused the body of overstepping its constitutionally defined remit. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


The feud intensifies: EC furious after Michel attack on von der Leyen

Council President Charles Michel and EC President Ursula von der Leyen enjoy tearing strips off each other in the public sphere.


The European Commission lashed out at European Council President Charles Michel on October 4 after Michel accused the Brussels executive of breaking treaty rules.

During a press briefing, a spokesman for the Commission firmly rejected the Council President’s claims that the body was not within its rights to sign a migration deal with Tunisia.

“We have indeed seen these statements by the President of the Council,” spokeswoman Arianna Podestà said.

“In our view, they are partially inaccurate, and in no way strengthen the EU’s ability to act effectively with the difficult issue of migration.”

Podestà insisted that the body had the right to sign agreements with third parties so long as they are not legally binding under international law.

She went on to claim that the Commission had been transparent with the Council and national representatives regarding the Tunisian migrant deal, rebuffing claims made by Michel that many governments were outraged by the deal.

“After the conclusion of the agreement with Tunisia, several heads of government explicitly praised the outcome and encouraged the Commission to conclude further agreements along these lines,” the spokeswoman said.

Michel made the allegations in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel. Von der Leyen was intruding upon ground reserved for national governments, he said.

Draft laws on Russia sanctions would have been “disastrous” if they had not been re-written by the Council team, he added.

The Commission spokesperson went on to attack Michel over his position on Ukraine, arguing that the Council President’s decision to demand Ukraine is let into the EU by 2030 undermines the integrity of the managing institutions.

“We don’t understand the need for this date,” she said.

“This risks undermining the confidence of many stakeholders in a fair, transparent and merit-based accession process.”

“The treaties give the European institutions a clear role as neutral and objective intermediaries in a clear and defined process.”

Such a war of words is largely par for the course for the two institutions, with Michel and EC President Ursula von der Leyen regularly tearing strips off each other in the public sphere.

Officials from the two bodies now reportedly try and avoid each other in public when possible, with the rare occasions where they are forced to interact sometimes resulting in mini-scandals that take the Eurobubble by storm.

One such incident is the infamous “sofagate“.

Occurring during a visit to Turkey, Michel is said to have taken a seat directly beside the country’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during a meeting, forcing Von der Leyen to make do with a faraway sofa instead.

The Commission president went on to blame the incident on sexism.