It wasn't us! EU chief Barroso blames US for financial crisis
EU commission president gets irritable at G20 summit after Canadian hack suggests North Americans shouldn't help solve euro debt crisis
JOSE MANUEL BARROSO has lent the G20 summit in Mexico a playground air, apparently losing his cool and resorting to finger-pointing when a reporter asked him why North Americans should help out the struggling eurozone countries.
As The Guardian reports, the EU commission president told the Canadian journalist: "Frankly, we are not here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy."
He added: "This crisis was not originated in Europe… seeing as you mention North America, this crisis originated in North America and much of our financial sector was contaminated by - how can I put it - unorthodox practices, from some sectors of the financial market."
By his side, EU council president Herman Van Rompuy echoed the sentiment, saying: "We are not the only ones that are so-called responsible for the current economic problems all over the world."
There has so far been little reaction to Barroso's remarks from the US or Canada – though whether this is indicative of sober acceptance of guilt, or just a symptom of global time differences is not yet clear.
The spat reflects a so-far inconclusive and fractious summit, with Barack Obama leaning on Germany to ease its insistence that Greeks stick to harsh austerity guidelines and Chancellor Angela Merkel remaining intransigent.
Strangely, Barroso's remarks went big in Australia, where they were taken as a rebuke to PM Julia Gillard who had emailed the G20 leaders ahead of the summit urging them to learn from Australia's economic model. Barroso's supposed put-down of Gillard generated reams of comment in the national media.
Eventually the PM said she had called Barroso to tell him about the Aussie media storm - and it had been a complete surprise to the EU commission president who had not, Gillard said, been referring to her.
"President Barroso is amused at the suggestion that anything he said anywhere would be reported in the Australian media as about Australia," she said, according to Australia's ABC News. "We were laughing about it earlier today so he's obviously crystal clear about that in his own mind."
A rare example of a world leader downplaying her own global importance for better press at home.