Oettinger’s Italy gaffe under the microscope

The EU’s budget Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, triggered a wave of outrage last month after reportedly suggesting that markets will “teach” Italian people how to vote. EURACTIV.com looks into the story as part of the ‘Fact or Fake’ series, in partnership with France 24.

It was a translation mistake – and perhaps a journalist’s rush to claim a scoop – that triggered a diplomatic storm last month around the EU’s budget Commissioner, Günther Oettinger.

In an interview broadcast on German television at the end of May, Oettinger expressed – in German – his doubts about the ability of the new Italian government to deviate from EU’s budget deficit rules, the stability and growth pact.

According to an English summary of the interview published on Twitter by the journalist, the EU Commissioner allegedly said that “The markets and a darkened economic outlook will teach Italian voters not to vote for populist parties in the next elections”.

Those remarks immediately triggered a wave of outrage in Rome but also in Brussels, where the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, told EU institutions to “respect the voters”, forcing Oettinger to present a public apology.

However, the words used by the journalist on Twitter were not the ones Oettinger used in his interview. For instance, the German Commissioner never said that markets will “teach voters” a lesson. A mistake that the journalist later recognised himself, presenting his apologies on Twitter.

But this rectification did not seem to convince Twitter users who underlined that Oettinger’s words were in essence not very different from the controversial sentence attributed to him.

‘Fact or Fake’ is a programme developed in partnership with France 24 as part of the weekly show Talking Europe

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