Flemish mayors chastise Juncker's criticism of beach town hospitality

Flemish mayors chastise Juncker's criticism of beach town hospitality
The mayor of a Belgian beach town demanded apologies from the EU Commission president, who said French speakers were frowned-upon in the Belgian coast. Credit: © Belga

The mayors of two seaside resorts have rebuked the "insulting" comments of a top European Union (EU) official who criticised the hospitality of Belgium's coastal cities, with one of them demanding the official issue an apology.

In an interview at the weekend, the outgoing president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in the face growing intolerance towards French speakers in the Belgian coast, he resorted to speaking in German instead.

"Thirty years ago, I could go to the baker’s or butcher’s in that area and order in French, but that would be frowned upon today," Juncker said, adding: "They accept Germans, but not French-speakers."

On Twitter, the mayor of Ostend, Bart Tommelein, expressed surprise at Juncker's "claims" and said that speakers of all languages were welcomed in his city, one of Belgium's most well-known beach destinations.

The mayor of Middelkerke, a small beach town west of Ostend, went one step further, lashing out at Juncker for his "insulting" comments and suggesting he might have been under the influence during his visits to the Belgian seaside.

"I think Juncker was drunk when he came here and ordered his steak, he was probably unintelligible to the shopkeeper," mayor Jean-Marie Dedecker said, according to VTM News.

"I think that's a big insult, he'll apologise," Dedecker continued, adding that Juncker would "receive a letter in his mailbox" tomorrow.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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