European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker cancelled on Wednesday (24 January) his highly anticipated appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) due to stomach flu, EU sources confirmed to EURACTIV.
“The president has stomach flu that will not allow him to travel to Davos,” the Commission chief spokesman confirmed later on Wednesday.
“He will stay at home to recover,” he added.
Juncker was scheduled to deliver a speech on Europe’s comeback on Thursday and highlight the positive economic momentum that brought confidence back to European countries after suffering a cascade of crises since the financial meltdown in 2007-2008.
But sources told EURACTIV that a “bad” stomach flu forced him to cancel his first trip to Davos as European Commission President. The last time he attended the forum was in 1997 as prime minister of Luxembourg.
An EU spokesperson explained last week that his presence was required this year, given that the forum was putting Europe at centre stage of the discussions.
The Forum’s president Klaus Schwab invited all European leaders to Davos this year as he wanted to create a ‘Europe’s day’ on the agenda.
In the end, the high turnout of European leaders forced organisers to spread the 40 European heads of state or government over two days, Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron took the stage to speak about the future of Europe and the challenges it faces.
The “optimism” around Europe is precisely one of the dominant issues in the corridors of the congress centre in Davos, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt told EURACTIV.
Juncker was expected to arrive this afternoon and had an agenda packed with bilateral meetings today and tomorrow, including with Bill Gates and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Sources said that Juncker’s role in some of the meetings would be taken over by some of the commissioners who came to Davos, including vice-president for Jobs, Growth and Investment Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for Budget Günter Oettinger.
Last year Juncker actually scolded his commissioners for attending the Forum in force.
“It is no secret that Jean-Claude Juncker is not a great fan and he has not been there for many years,” his chief spokesperson said back then.