Bickering within the European Union is as much part of life in the bloc as the rows between the 28 countries that belong to it.
But relations between the European Commission, the EU’s executive, and the European Parliament took a turn for the worse Tuesday.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, called the assembly “ridiculous” after less than 5% of its 751 members turned up to hear Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
“The European Parliament is ridiculous, very ridiculous. I salute those who made the effort to be in the room. But the fact that there’s about 30 members of Parliament present in this debate has sufficiently shown that Parliament is not serious,” Juncker said.
“If Mr. Muscat was Mrs. Merkel, hard as that is to imagine, or Mr. Macron, a bit easier to imagine, we would have a full house,” Juncker said, referring to the leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
Visibly annoyed, Italy’s Antonio Tajani, the president of the Parliament, asked Juncker to show some respect. “It’s not the commission that controls the Parliament, but the Parliament that controls the commission,” he said.
Muscat, whose country is the smallest in the 28-nation bloc, was invited to speak to the EU’s only directly elected body following the completion of the Mediterranean island’s six-month EU presidency.
The European Parliament is usually based in Brussels, Belgium, but once a month its members travel more than 200 miles with their staff and documents in tow to Strasbourg, France, where the Parliament also has a chamber.
Although parliamentarians are required to attend the sessions in Strasbourg, they often turn up to sign for their daily allowance of 306 euros ($347) and then leave.
Parliamentary officials told CNN there were so few attendees because there was no vote scheduled on any issue.
Estonia is the next country to take the six-month EU rotating presidency.