Cyprus MEPs admitted on Wednesday that they were among those who did not attend the prime minister of Malta’s address in the European Parliament, dedicated to the country’s six months in the EU presidency chair, which ended last week.
The poor showing by MEPs in general – only 30 out of 751 MEPs showed up – provoked a stinging rebuke from European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who accused the EU parliament of showing a lack of respect for smaller members.
Solidarity leader and MEP Eleni Theocharous told the Cyprus Mail that small countries like Malta were shown contempt by the bigger members of the bloc.
But when asked why none of the six Cyprus MEPs attended the session, even though they too represent a small country and should show support, she said that the session had taken place early in the morning, and many parliament members had to attend other committees.
She also said that Cyprus seems to fare better in terms of attendance.
“The stance against Cyprus by the members of the European Parliament was better because of the Cyprus problem,” she noted.
MEP for Akel, Takis Hadjigeorgiou, confirmed that he had not managed to be present, but he said in similar circumstances Cyprus fared no better.
“During Cyprus’ review for its six-month presidency of the Council of the EU which ended in December 2012, the MEPs who attended the session were also very few,” he said.
On Tuesday, Juncker described the European parliament and its members as “ridiculous”.
“The European parliament is ridiculous, very ridiculous. I welcome those who have attended today but the fact that only 30 members of the European parliament have attended, proved that the European parliament is not serious enough. If Merkel or Macron were here it would have been a full house,” he said.
Parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, rebuked Juncker by saying: “I beg you to have a respectful behaviour. You can criticise the European parliament, but the commission does not control the parliament, it is parliament who should control the commission.”
Juncker retorted: “There are only a few members in the plenary to control the commission. You are ridiculous.”
Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, was smiling during the dispute, while Philippe Lamberts, of the Green Party, was seen applauding Juncker.