Jean-Claude Juncker has a little black book called “little Maurice” where he notes the names of everyone who has betrayed him, the European Commission president said in an interview in which he denied kissing UKIP leader Nigel Farage after the Brexit vote.
“I’ve never taken revenge,” Juncker told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir , but he added, “I take my precautions”.
Junker has kept “Little Maurice” – a name taken from a German saying – for 30 years and written the name of everyone who had tricked him in it.
There are not many names in the book, Juncker said, because he had been so rarely betrayed.
“I am not rancorous but I have a good memory,” he said in the interview published today (30 July).
The book had come in handy when he was prime minister of Luxembourg. Juncker would tell people attacking him, “Be careful Little Maurice is waiting for you”. “It had a dissuasive effect,” he laughed.
Juncker has faced calls for his resignation and accusations that he was a drinking problem since becoming Commission boss in November 2014. Asked during the interview if rumours of his alcoholism were false, he said, “Yes!”.
He denied that the fallout of the British vote to Brexit the EU had weakened his position.
“For every call for my resignation, there is an underlying reason,” Juncker said, “but none of them have impressed me enough to destabilise me. I am stable!”
Juncker this week appointed Michel Barnier to head up the Brexit negotiations. The former internal market commissioner has a difficult history with the City of London, dating back to his time in charge of EU financial legislation.
“Michel Barnier is a good guy,” Juncker said, “The British don’t like him but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like the British.”
Juncker said the problems facing Europe were a reason to solidify and strengthen the EU, not unravel it.
“That’s why I am sad about Brexit because I must spend two or three years on deconstruction in place of construction. Finding the right balance between the two is difficult.”
‘I didn’t kiss Farage’
Juncker praised his nemesis Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party and the man most responsible for forcing former Prime Minister David Cameron to call the referendum.
“I respect the man. He has a good sense of humour and is well-read,” Juncker said before denying he had kissed Farage at the European Parliament debate following the Brexit vote.
“That day, after Brexit, I told him ‘I am stunned you are still here’ and I told him something in his ear that was not a compliment. The photos gave the impression that I had kissed him,” he said.
“Was I to make a big deal out of it and say ‘I was whispering in his ear’ or just leave it? At my age, one leaves it.”
Juncker has regularly been photographed kissing other EU leaders, but he insisted that was a matter of cultural sensitivity.
He also infamously greeted Hungary’s hard-line leader Victor Orbán with a cheery ‘Hello dictator’ at one summit.
Juncker claimed he didn’t realise a microphone would pick up his comment, but he said it was a long-running joke between the two men.
“I’ve done that every time I’ve seen him for five years,” Juncker said. “I said to him ‘How are you dictator’ and he answered, ‘And how about you Grand Duke?’.
Juncker also said he would not join Goldman Sachs, as his predecessor Jose Manuel Barroso has controversially done. Goldman Sachs is one of financial institutions blamed for the financial crisis.
“I will not join Goldman Sachs,” Juncker said. “The fact that Barroso works for a bank doesn’t bother me too much, but that bank poses me a problem.
“He respected the rules but one must choose one’s employer.”
Juncker revealed he wanted to be a journalist when he was younger and discussed how his father and uncles were forced to fight for the Nazis during World War Two in the interview.
Turkey deal at risk
In a separate interview, with Austria’s Kurier newspaper, Juncker said that the EU’s deal with Turkey on stopping the flow of migrants to the bloc was at risk of breaking down.
“The risk is big. The success so far of the pact is fragile. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already hinted several times that he wants to scrap it,” Juncker said.
“(If that happens) then we can expect migrants to start coming to Europe again,” he told the paper in an interview published on Saturday.
The March accord between the European Union and Turkey succeeded in stemming the flow of migrants but there are concerns that it could fall apart after a failed coup against Erdoğan on 15 July.