European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is pictured at the Congress of Malta, in March 2017. Photo: Flickr/EPP
Former Luxembourg prime minister and current European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was last week recognised as European leader of the year at the European Leadership Awards in Brussels.
Juncker greeted the award, which was last year given to French president Emmanuel Macron, with is usual wry humour, saying he accepted the prize on behalf of all people working for the commission. “I’m speaking not only about the commissioners but also those who Mr Orban [Hungarian prime minister] describes as being pure bureacrats. They are excellent.”
A CSV party member, Juncker served as Luxembourg prime minister from 1995 to 2013. He is expected to step down as European Commission president at the end of October 2019. Juncker is known for his zany humour, which he uses to defuse tensions but which also frequently lands him in the news.
Delano looks back at Juncker’s best buffoonish gags.
At an EU summit in Riga in May 2015, Juncker trolled Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban by greeting him with a handshake, a smile and the words “Hello dictator!”. The unexpected welcome was thought to have been a tactic to defuse tensions between Brussels and Orban.
The usual suspect
At a press conference at a summit for heads of state of the EU and the League of Arab States in February 2019, Juncker answered his mobile phone mid-speech. After hanging up, he explained: “It was the usual suspect. My wife. I will have to stop here because she will not stop there.” It wasn’t the first time he was disturbed by a call during a press conference. In Brussels in July 2017, he apologised to media saying that his wife was calling. When he looked at the handset, he said: “No, it was Mrs Merkel,” and chuckled.
Juncker poked fun at UK prime minister Theresa May’s awkward dance moves when he entered the stage a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in October 2018. Upon reaching the podium, his introductory music continued to play. To fill the time gap, he appeared to mimic May’s awkward arm movements, a gag which earned him hearty laughter in the audience.
The hair ruffle
One of the most bizarre moments had to be seeing Juncker greeting the EU’s deputy head of protocol Pernilla Sjölin at an EU Council Summit and ruffling her hair before giving her a kiss. Juncker appears to have a bit of a thing for hair. In images reminiscent of playground teasing, Juncker was pictured sneaking up on and pretending to give a haircut to European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt ahead of an EU debate in parliament in February 2018.
Leaders rarely know where a kiss with Juncker will end up. In the case of then commissioner for economic and financial affairs Pierre Moscovici in June 2016, the kiss was planted firmly on the bald part of his head.