STRASBOURG (Reuters) - A no-confidence motion in the EU’s new chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker had no chance of success after the Eurosceptic lawmakers who brought it traded insults with the bigger parties in the European Parliament on Monday.
Backed by anti-EU groups including the UK Independence Party and France’s National Front, the motion calls for Juncker to be removed, less than a month after taking office, because of his long tenure as prime minister of Luxembourg when the country was at the center of controversial corporate tax avoidance schemes.
But big parties on the right and left, representing far more than the blocking one-third minority required to thwart the motion in a vote set for Thursday, defended the conservative Juncker and criticised the Eurosceptics for playing what centrist leader Guy Verhofstadt derided as a “little game”.
Speaking for the motion, National Front leader Marine Le Pen said Juncker’s defense of Luxembourg’s past policies and promise to work now to curb tax avoidance was “as credible as putting Al Capone in charge of an ethics committee”.
Juncker himself renewed a pledge to promote a common European Union approach to corporate tax - something one of his defenders noted was not something his Eurosceptic opponents would support.
The sharpest exchanges came when liberal leader Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, said that by cooperating on the motion with the outspoken Le Pen, UKIP had shown it was “racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic”. UKIP members demanded that the speaker censure him for lacking respect, but were refused.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels, editing by Mark Heinrich