Former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (C) leaves the church after a funeral service for late former German Parliament 'Bundestag' president Wolfgang Schaeuble in Offenburg, Germany, 05 January 2024. . EPA-EFE/PHILIPP VON DITFURTH


Former EC chief Juncker warns of ‘shift to the Right’ as European elections loom


In an interview with the Catholic daily Tagespost, former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he expected “that the forces on the right-wing fringe will gain in importance”.

“This must be opposed,” he added.

Juncker said he observed “with concern” that within the traditional parties – Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists – there was a “strong temptation to adopt right-wing issues by parroting them”.

The former EC chief said one “can’t contain the danger from the Right by talking like Le Pen, for example”.

According to Juncker, it is wrong to chase voters’ approval as “you’ll only see them from behind”.

“Occasionally, one must also stand in the way of voters threatened by misconceptions. I wish for a clearer language from the traditional parties,” he added.

“No compromises!

“The individual voter is at fault when they vote extremely Right.”

He said he did not hold the traditional parties accountable for that but pointed the finger at “the individual citizen does not feel responsible for the whole”.

Juncker insisted he did not want “to let the voter off the hook for their responsibility”.

If people vote too far to the right, he said he feared that “the idea of European unification would be over”.

He also said he considered patriotism a virtue but was against nationalism because that, Juncker claimed, was usually directed against others.

It can pitch neighbouring states against each other and could  “permanently damage” the European project, he said.

“It is and remains a miracle of history that Europe has become a shaping power that ensures peace among the 27 States. This is the merit of the war and post-war generation.”

Juncker also took particular aim at Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is rumoured to be considering a switch of allegiance from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) to the European People’s Party (EPP).

He said he was “strongly opposed” to Meloni joining the EPP, adding it would be “tantamount to trivialising the extreme Right”.

Juncker said she seemed “rather compliant” in Europe presently, working together with the EC on migration.

He went on to highlight that the EPP was first and foremost a Christian Democratic Party but added: “This has been watered down because access has been paved for all those who are not socialists.”

That, he said, was why he advocated expelling Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party from Europe “because I saw that the EU would no longer be able to work if everyone behaved like Orbán”.

At the EPP congress in Bucharest, Romania, Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani said he was open to working with the ECR and “there are not only socialists in the European institutions”.

In the same Tagespost piece, Juncker also harshly criticised Israel over Gaza.

“The way Israel is currently responding to the Hamas attack on October 7 is not an effective concept because it involves too much human suffering,” he said.

“Every grenade, every shot in the Gaza Strip means hatred for another hundred years. Future-oriented politics cannot consist of sowing hatred for decades! But that is what Israel is doing at the moment.

“I understand Israel’s strong response to the events of October 7 but enough is enough!”

With regard to Russia, he claimed the West had been “naïve beyond measure”.

“For a long time, it looked as if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would also rely on rapprochement between the EU and Moscow,” Juncker said but, he added, that changed from 2008 onward.

He also blamed elements of the public, saying: “If in 2003 or 2004 we had broken off the budding friendship with Russia and reverted to the rhetoric of the Cold War, there would have been massive demonstrations on the German streets against such a policy.

“If we had been hostile towards Russia, we would hardly have found any understanding in the German-speaking world,” Juncker concluded.