With less than half a year remaining in his term, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed regret that his two biggest mistakes while in office were remaining silent during the Brexit referendum campaign and reacting too late to the LuxLeaks scandal.
During the Brexit debates in 2016, Juncker, who had already headed the Commission for two years, opted to remain out of the fray and refused to comment on the bitter campaign over whether the UK should remain in the European Union.
“I listened to the British government, I listened to (then-Prime Minister) Mr. (David) Cameron because he told me not to intervene in the Brexit campaign”, said Juncker in front of the Brussels press corps, before adding that, in hindsight, he would today opt to “contradict the lies” that were spread during the campaign by pro-Brexiters.
“It was a mistake not to intervene and not to interfere because we would have been the only ones to destroy the lies which were circulated. I was wrong to be silent at an important moment,” said Juncker.
Juncker also regrets his late reaction to the Luxleaks affair, which became known to the public early in his mandate and uncovered details about massive tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg and elsewhere
Despite the two blemishes during his tenure, Juncker believes his greatest success as the head of the Commission was keeping Greece in the eurozone, a policy that he said he was particularly proud of.
Juncker urged voters to go to the polls for the EU’s elections on 23-26 May to fight extremists and populists without resorting to what he called “cheap slogans and personal attacks”.