The head of the EU executive called lawmakers unserious and ridiculous. Only a few dozen lawmakers showed up to a debate on the Maltese presidency.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker excoriated the European Parliament on Tuesday, telling a near empty plenary session in Strasbourg that lawmakers were "ridiculous."
The head of the EU executive was angry that only a few dozen lawmakers in the over 700-seat body attended a debate to review the Maltese presidency of the Council of the European Union.
"The fact that there's about 30 members of parliament present in this debate only really illustrates the fact that parliament is not serious," he said. "The European Parliament is ridiculous, very ridiculous."
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat spoke to the European Parliament at the end the country's six-month presidency of the EU that ended over the weekend.
Juncker criticized that few lawmakers showed up to listen to the prime minister, who leads the EU's smallest member state with about 400,000 people. He said that it showed a complete lack of respect for smaller EU member states.
"If Mr. Muscat would have been Mrs. Merkel - tough to imagine - or Mr. Macron - easier to imagine - we would have had a full house. The parliament is totally ridiculous," Juncker said, referring to the German and French leaders.
The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, repeatedly told Junker to settle down and use different language, reminding him that lawmakers have authority over the European Commission.
"The commission does not control the parliament. It is the parliament that should be controlling the commission," he said.
Juncker responded: "There are only a few members in the parliament to control the commission. You are ridiculous."
"I will never attend a meeting of this kind," he added.
Muscat smiled during the incident, later going on to discuss the Maltese presidency.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans later said Tajani and Juncker had talked over the issue and said it was "off the table again."
"Jean-Claude has a habit of letting his heart speak," he said.
The parliament was seen to be mostly full for later business during the day.
cw/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)