Prendergast slams German Commissioner’s half-wit half-mast idea

A European Commissioner’s support for making over-indebted countries fly
their flags at half mast as a symbol of their sins is half-witted and offensive, Labour MEP Phil Prendergast said today.

Commissioner Gunther Oettinger was reported referring to indebted countries as ‘deficit sinners’ who would be ‘deterred’ by having their national flags flown at half mast over EU buildings.

Speaking from Strasbourg ahead of a major debate on the economic crisis,
Ms Prendergast said:

“The Irish flag would have to fly at half mast if Commissioner Oettinger
has his way. The so-called deterrent in his eyes is humiliation. This is
totally at odds with EU values, and unhelpful at a time when States most
affected by the financial crisis struggle to get public acceptance for
efforts to bring their debt under control.

“Shaming EU countries with excessive public deficits – caused primarily by
the financial crisis – is unworthy of a member of the European Commission,
the institution which stands for the collective interests of the European

“Lowering a flag to half mast is usually out of respect or mourning.
Commissioner Oettinger’s comments are all the more offensive considering
they were made at a time flags flew at half mast across America to
remember the victims of 9/11. Does he think the US should keep it that way
until they have their deficit under control?

“Throughout the eurozone crisis, many crude political statements have been
made in member states emphasising the differences between themselves and
their European counterparts out of party political self-interest.

“Commissioner Oettinger has no such excuse. He is a representative of the
European Union not his home country, Germany. Confidence in EU leaders’
ability to come to grips with the financial crisis is low in the eyes of
the public and of the international markets. His comments can only further
damage their credibility and make it harder to gain public acceptance for
the difficult decisions that lie ahead.

“I sincerely hope he will publicly retract this disgraceful proposal,
which would drive a further wedge between the European core and the
periphery. He should focus on working with his colleagues on proposals to
strengthen our collective response to a collective problem.”

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