The Brief: Commissioner mocks Chinese and gay marriage

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger has mocked the Chinese, gay marriage, and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s divorce in a shock speech.

Oettinger is infamous for putting his foot in it. But after footage emerged today of the jaw-dropping tirade, it very much looks like Germany’s man in Brussels is guilty of a gaffe too far this time.

He said at a speech in Hamburg, “Last week Chinese ministers visited us […] nine men, one party, and no democracy.

“All of them in suits, single breasted dark blue jackets. All of them had their hair combed from left to right, with black shoe polish on their hair.”

Germany has a quota for female representation on company boards. “There is no quota for women [in China], and there were consequently no women [among the ministers],” Oettinger said to nervous laughter.

The source of the embarrassing footage claims they began filming after Oettinger used the term “Schlitzaugen” – slitty eyes – in reference to the Chinese.

We could not independently confirm he used the racist term on Wednesday. Oettinger’s communications advisor told us she had no comment to make.

To nervous laughs, Oettinger ploughed on. Discussing German politics, he sarcastically said, “Perhaps obligatory homosexual marriage will be introduced.”

He said that Gerhard Schröder, who now works for Gazprom, would have time on his hands after the collapse of his fourth marriage.

“Now he has time. North Stream 2 won’t be built and his wife has left,” he said, referring to the controversial plans for a Russian-German gas pipeline, which is under European Commission scrutiny.

Oettinger also bemoaned the loss of the good old days when everyone read a newspaper, instead of their smartphones. Soon we will have more committees than people, he added.

And it was all going so well for him in Brussels recently. Expect this story to run over the weekend.


Canada. It’s almost offensively inoffensive. But oil made from Canadian tar sands is one of the most polluting fossil fuels there is. So will the CETA trade deal make it easier to import it to the EU? We asked the Commission. Apparently, now is not the time to ask such questions.

Matteo Renzi’s party has pointed to costs from earthquake relief and the refugee crisis to defend its budget against challenges from the European Commission that it doesn’t cut Italy’s deficit enough. Meanwhile, Poland has basically told the Commission to get lost.

Viktor Orbán has vowed to sue the Commission if it doesn’t give up on its plan to introduce mandatory migrant resettlement quotas for EU countries.

German MEP Martina Michels has accused Angela Merkel of “pouring oil on the fire” of relations with Turkey, and said she should stand up to Orbán over his refugee politics.

A British court has ruled that Uber drivers are entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay. Take that Neelie Kroes and mewling millennials! Another UK court today rejected a legal challenge against Brexit.

American tech companies were served another blow by European regulators. The group of EU privacy watchdogs asked WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with Facebook for now, and demanded Yahoo explain how Europeans’ data was snapped up by hackers and the US government.

Terrorist groups are increasingly recruiting young women, especially in East Africa, and Russia has denied any role in the bloody air strike on a Syrian school.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on British Remainers to organise and push for a second referendum.  After Iraq, he’d be more helpful to the anti-Brexit cause by shutting up, especially if he is going to use terms like “insurgents”.

Kristalina Georgieva is reportedly quitting the Commission for a job at the World Bank.


The Lénaïc Fund for Journalism offers young female Europeans bursaries and fellowships to cover the EU institutions. It was established as a memorial to Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt, who sadly died aged 28 last year. There’s a 10 November fundraising event at the Brussels Press Club. Find out more.


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