In an interview with New Europe’s Editor Alexandros Koronakis, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made extensive reference to the 2015 Greek debt crisis. “Greece was the most difficult case I had to face,” he said.

President Juncker revealed that several EU member states vehemently opposed the interference of the Commission when Greece seemed to be on the brink of leaving the Eurozone in 2015. “Instead, they said that this Greek difficulty had to be dealt with exclusively by the member states.” Greece came close to a devastating sovereign default in June 2015 after two government bailout proposals were rejected, following years of debt accumulation in the country, exacerbated by weak structures in the economy and the 2008 global recession.

Facing a potential Greek exit, President Jean-Claude Juncker was determined to keep Greece in the Union. He disagreed with member states that advocated for zero Commission interference during the crisis. “I refused that because I think that according to the Treaty, as we are in charge of protecting the general interest of the European Union, we had to lead the game, and we did it successfully,” Juncker reflected. “Because in 2015, I didn’t want to eject Greece from the Euro are for a single second, although others were trying to do so.”

“I am proud to have kept Greece inside the sphere of solidarity named the Euro area. […] We played a major role,” Juncker said. Now, long after the high point of the crisis, Juncker believes it was all worth it because of the Greek people. “I like the Greek nation for so many reasons, and I like the Greek people because although they were punished for the mistakes and errors of all the Greek governments we have had in the past decades, they never lost their dignity. […] I love Greeks; it’s like that.”