European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European parliament, “You are ridiculous!” during a plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
Juncker was enraged by the high absentee rate among EU parliamentarians during a debate to review the Maltese presidency of the Council of the European Union, which ended on Friday.
According to Juncker, the fact that only “30 members of parliament” were present illustrated the fact that parliament was “not serious.”
He went on to say that if German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron had been present, the situation would have been different.
Juncker was repeatedly interrupted by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, who asked Juncker to soften his language and refrain from using the word “ridiculous.”
“I will never attend a meeting of this kind,” Juncker responded, adding that parliament had to respect the presidencies of smaller countries.
The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates among member states at six-month intervals; Estonia began its term at the weekend.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose country has a population of less than half a million, laughed during the incident and shrugged off the suggestion that small countries might matter less.
“Jean-Claude has a habit of letting his heart speak,” EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans said later about his boss, adding that the matter was “off the table again.”
Gianni Pittella, the head of the group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament said on Twitter that “instead of engaging in ‘tough talk,'” Juncker should “direct his ire at the EU Council for their inaction on migration.”