Jean-Claude Juncker has praised Angela Merkel for her controversial decision to let in nearly 1 million refugees in the autumn of 2015.
"History will prove her right," the EU Commission president told Germany's mass circulation daily Bild. "If she had closed the German borders, Austria and Hungary would have collapsed due to the high number of refugees. That's the truth," he added.
Germany a 'sluggish tanker'
Merkel, he says, did not divide or unite the EU, as "no single person can lead or split the EU." If you want to achieve something in Europe, you "consistently need reliable partners."
Germany, he believes, is like a "sluggish tanker" in the bloc not a "speedboat," but he says Merkel did the right thing when it counted. "Not on her own, but as co-leader with many other clever people," he told Bild.
At the time, she assured her fellow Germans that "we can do this," a phrase often cited and mocked by those who believe Germany should not let in too many migrants or those disappointed with the lack of support from the federal government with integrating the migrants.
A former prime minister of Luxembourg and a seasoned EU politician, Juncker also revealed that he managed to get US President Donald Trump onside by offering to import more American liquid gas and soybeans. "In the end, he kissed me in the Oval Office."
Asked why he is so keen to kiss everyone, Juncker said he grew up in the south of Luxembourg, which used to mainly produce steel. "I grew up with lots of Italians there, they often hug and kiss."