Oettinger Apologizes for Speech That May Have ‘Hurt People’
European Union Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger apologized for making comments about Chinese and other people that he said created “bad feelings”, according to Bloomberg. The conciliatory step by Oettinger, who is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s appointee to the European Commission, aims to stem political fallout from a speech last week in Hamburg in which he reportedly referred to Chinese people as “slit eyes.”
He also reportedly described Belgium’s French-speaking south as a “micro region run by communists”, signaled women couldn’t succeed professionally without quotas and questioned the merits of gay marriage. “I had time to reflect on my speech and I can now see that the words I used have created bad feelings and may even have hurt people,” Oettinger said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday in Brussels. “This was not my intention and I would like to apologize for any remark that was not as respectful as it should have been.”
The Hamburg speech, some of which was caught on video, preceded an Oct. 28 announcement by commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that Oettinger will succeed Kristalina Georgieva as the EU’s budget chief after she resigns by the end of the year to join the World Bank. The move could mark a promotion for Oettinger because Georgieva, who is Bulgarian, is one of seven commission vice presidents. On Oct. 31, Merkel’s spokesman said the German government had “full confidence” in Oettinger. That signaled she doesn’t plan to seek to replace Oettinger with another German appointee to the commission.