Today, 3 November 2016, Commissioner Oettinger issued the following statement, referring to the speech he gave at the 27th EuropaAbend of the AGA Unternehmensverband in Hamburg:
"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. This was not my intention and I would like to apologise for any remark that was not as respectful as it should have been.
I was frank and open – it was not a speech read-out, but “frei von der Leber” as we say in German. My message was to give a wake-up call to the German audience: if the Germans focus their political work on reducing the retirement age, increasing pensions etc., no-one should be surprised if we lose the global battle for competitiveness. The same goes for Europe as a whole. We need to double our efforts and not take a nap and rest on the sofa. We need to set the right priorities – in a democratic and balanced way. In my speech I had chosen some examples (and once again my apologies if my words caused negative feelings.)
I also pointed to the need to have a functioning European governance – the CETA example showed that Europe's credibility as a reliable partner in international trade is easily lost if we do not pay more attention.
Let me add here that I regret that some of my remarks were misquoted regarding Wallonia which is not only historically an important European region, but actively contributes to the cultural and political diversity of Europe. Coming myself from a federal state, I take regions and their points of view very seriously.
I have great respect for the dynamics of the Chinese economy – China is a partner and a tough competitor. Therefore we need a level playing field where Chinese companies can buy European ones and European companies can buy Chinese ones. It is important to have that access on both sides – and I see room for improvement here."