Europe is losing ground on global stage and should ‘listen to the rest of the world,’ European Commission president says in interview.
Europe and Russia need to “re-establish contact” and move past “Cold War rhetoric,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in an interview published Saturday.
“My friend Vladimir Putin — because we have been friends for years, even though nowadays you cannot say that Putin is your friend — was at the time very unpleasantly affected by that one sentence of President Obama when he said [in 2014 in The Hague] that Russia is only a regional power,” Juncker told Dutch outlet Trouw.
“If there’s something Russia is not, then that is it. We must learn to talk to Russians on an equal footing, at eye level.”
“We need to re-establish contact with Russia,” the Commission president added. “Russia is a major player. There is no security agenda for Europe without Russia. I don’t like the current Cold War rhetoric.”
Juncker’s comments come at a time of heightened tension between the EU and Russia over the country’s presence in Syria, its alleged involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attack in the U.K. and accusations of Russian meddling in national elections.
Juncker also warned that Europe’s power on the world stage is shrinking as other major power players grow.
“We Europeans sometimes think that we are the boss of the world,” he said. “We forget that we are a small and weak part of the universe. We are losing economic power. We are slowly but surely falling from 25 percent of global gross national income to 18-16 percent.”
“We are on the losing side also demographically,” he said, adding: “We exist culturally, but we are not dominant. So I always invite everyone here to a more pronounced modesty. We must indeed listen to the rest of the world.”
Juncker also used the interview to suggest that some EU members, including the Netherlands, were hypocritical in their criticism of his efforts to give the Commission a more political role.
“The funny thing is that prime ministers who do not like a political commission, including Mark [Rutte, the Netherlands’ prime minister], always call us right away if they have a political problem at home,” he said.
In a recent interview in Der Spiegel, Rutte called Juncker “an outstanding Commission president” but added: “When he repeatedly insists that the Commission is political, I have to object.”