Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Under-fire EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker risked widening divisions with European leaders today by saying borders were the ‘worst invention ever’.
He called for all borders across Europe to be opened, despite the chaos caused over the last year from the flood in refugees fleeing Syria and the wave of terror attacks hitting various continent’s cities.
The remarkable comments will further undermine Mr Juncker’s precarious position as European Commission President.
He has faced repeated calls to quit after his failure to keep Britain in the EU and the refugee and Greek debt crises.
Today he accepted the Commission ‘deserves criticism’ but insisted national government’s ‘have to share the blame’.
Speaking at the Alpbach Media Academy this morning, Mr Juncker said: ‘Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.’
The contentious remarks from the Brussels chief are the polar opposite of moves by elected leaders of EU member states who have tighten their borders over recent months after more than a million entered the bloc from Syria in less than a year.
Mr Juncker also said a stronger EU was the best way of beating the rising trend of nationalism cross Europe.
In another extraordinary remark, he appeared to warn of war on the continent if the EU disintegrates as he echoed the warning from the former French president Francois Mitterrand, who said nationalism added to nationalism would end in war.
‘This is still true so we have to fight against nationalism,’ Mr Juncker said.
‘We have to fight against nationalism, we have the duty not to follow populists but to block the avenue of populists.’
The embattled EU Commission president described Brexit as an ‘unheard-of political crisis’ for the EU but told EU member states that the only way of overcoming the challenge of Britain leaving would be to remain as one.
‘In the concentration of globalisation and European problems, we must not lose our way,’ he said.
Downing Street said Mr Juncker’s views on borders were ‘not something that the Prime Minister would agree with’.
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman added: ‘Indeed, you’ve heard the Prime Minister talk about the views that the British people expressed in the referendum and that the British people think that borders are important, having more control of our borders is important and that’s an issue we need to address.’
Mr Juncker was speaking as the leaders of Germany, France and Italy met for crisis talks today as they plot to save the EU in the wake of Brexit.
The aim of the summit – held on the Italian island of Ventotene – is to demonstrate the unity of Europe’s three biggest countries but it is likely to attract questions over the elitist nature of the meeting.