The head of the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, has called its parliament "totally ridiculous" during a spat over low MEP attendance.
After EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker thanked the few dozens of the 700-plus MEPs for attending a plenary session, he insisted that "parliament is not serious" for failing to show up in large numbers for the keynote debate of the day.
EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani rebuked Mr Juncker and asked for "a more respectful attitude", adding: "The commission does not control the parliament. It is the parliament that should be controlling the commission."
To which Mr Juncker retorted: "There are only a few members in the parliament to control the commission. You are ridiculous."
The exchange at the legislature in Strasbourg, France, was even more amazing since Mr Juncker and Mr Tajani belong to the same EPP Christian Democratic group.
Though the European Parliament has increased its clout over the past years after earning a bigger say in a host of issues, it is often still perceived as an easy job for politicians without a big national portfolio and veterans seeking a leisurely path to retirement.
The views of the parliament bore out Mr Juncker’s assertion with row after row of empty seats. Philippe Lamberts of the Greens group, one of the few to show up, was seen applauding the rebuke of Mr Juncker.
The session centred on the Maltese presidency of the EU which ended on July 1, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was attending the plenary.
While Mr Muscat was still in the hall, Mr Juncker referred to the German and French leaders while scolding the parliament.
"If Mr Muscat would have been Mrs Merkel - tough to imagine - or Mr Macron - easier to imagine - we would have had a full house. The parliament is totally ridiculous," Mr Juncker said.