21:07 GMT +319 March 2018
Listen Live
    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 9, 2015

    Juncker Under Fire Over Failure to Discipline Oettinger's 'Slit Eyes' Slur

    © REUTERS/ Vincent Kessler
    Get short URL

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is under increasing pressure to discipline German Commissioner Gunther Oettinger after he referred to a Chinese delegation to Brussels as having "slit eyes" during a recent speech that has been labeled racist and homophobic.

    Pressure is building on Juncker to take action after the Commission repeatedly refused to apologize for, or initiate an investigation into Oettinger's remarks, made during a business meeting in Hamburg last week.

    "We have nothing to add," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters.

    ​When further questioned on whether there would be an investigation into Oettinger's comments, Schinas replied, "we do not have an FBI at the Commission."

    Oettinger in Hot Water Over Remarks

    The controversy stems from an October 26 event, where Oettinger used the offensive word "Schlitzaugen" (slit eyes) to refer to a Chinese delegation in Brussels.

    The German commissioner mocked the business delegation, describing them as "nine men, one party, no democracy. No female quota, and no women — which follows logically."

    ​"All of them [the Chinese ministers] in suits, single breasted dark blue jackets. All of them had their hair combed from left to right, with black shoe polish on their hair," Oettinger said.

    Despite acknowledging his remarks were "sloppy," Oettinger rejected claims that his comments were racist.

    However, the Chinese delegation weren't the only ones to be targeted during Oettinger's speech, with the commissioner making disparaging remarks about gay marriage, joking that the German government would probably introduce a law to make it compulsory.

    ​Meanwhile in a separate speech, Oettinger described the French-speaking region of Wallonia, which last week held up the signing of the EU-Canada CETA deal, as a "micro-region ruled by communists."

    The remarks led Paul Magnette, the Socialist leader of Wallonia to hit back on Twitter.

    "Will the European Commission be as tough against racist homophobes like Oettinger as they were against those who defended transparency and democracy? We will see."

    Calls for Sacking

    The controversy over Oettinger's comments comes as the German was last week chosen by Juncker to replace European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva as the commissioner for budget and human resources, following Georgieva's decision to resign and join the World Bank.

    Given the Commission's lack of disciplinary action, a number of MEPs have voiced their disapproval at Juncker's leadership on the issue.

    ​Sophie in 't Veld, Vice-President of the ALDE group of the European Parliament, said MEPs would grill Oettinger over his comments at an upcoming hearing.

    "Racist, sexist or homophobic 'locker-room talk' is not acceptable behavior of a European Commissioner," she said.

    ​Meanwhile others questioned why action wasn't being taken against the German.

    "You've got to ask how many times Oettinger is going to get away with this behavior," Syed Kamall, leader of the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, told Politico, describing the commissioner as "a gaffe-prone, untouchable German man." 

    ​The sentiment was shared by German MEP Fabio de Masi, who told the publication that Oettinger should step down from his post.

    "I expect action on behalf of Mr. Juncker who has to ask Mr. Oettinger to resign," he said.

    "Mr. Oettinger's behavior and that of many (former and present) Commissioners — Juncker, [former European Commission President Jose Manuel] Barroso, [former Commissioner Neelie] Kroes — indicate that they lost any sense of realism and feel untouchable."


    Campaigners Call for Shake-Up of European Commission Over Lobby Breaches
    Belgian FM Signs CETA After Deal Almost Collapsed Due to Wallonia's Opposition
    Growing Pressure on EU Chief Juncker Over Migrants, Eurozone, Sovereignty
    EU Launches Probe Into Ex-Commissioner Kroes Undeclared Bahamas Links
    homophobia, leadership, racism, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), European Commission, European Union, Paul Magnette, Kristalina Georgieva, Gunther Oettinger, Jean-Claude Juncker, Germany, Europe
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik
    • Сomment