Here we go again, another gaffe by EU Commissioner Oettinger. You remember Günther Oettinger? He is the EU Commissioner for Energy and former PM of Baden-Württemberg. If that does not ring a bell maybe you might recall his encounter with ‘tea strainers on his face‘ or his attempts at ‘English as a working language‘ – and there is even a twitter account tracking the more humorous episodes of his life.
Last week, Oettinger participated in a debate about the controversial rail project “Stuttgart 21” – a multi-billion euro project that he supported while being PM in Baden-Württemberg. The latest revelations even showed that Oettinger made sure that the public and the parliament were not informed about significant price increases of “Stuttgart 21”! (If you live in Baden-Württemberg make sure you vote in the referendum today to stop the project!)
Anyway during the aforementioned debate Oettinger said the following in German (while keeping a straight face!):
“Sie sagen, alle(s) seien Kopfbahnhöfe. Stimmt doch gar nicht! Strasbourg – Durchgangsbahnhof. Karlsruhe – Durchgangsbahnhof. Es stimmt, Paris ist ein Kopfbahnhof. Gare de l’Est. Warum? Weil es westlich von Paris keine Menschen mehr gibt, sondern (nur) Kühe und Atlantik. – Stuttgart, aber Stuttgart ist mittendrin.”
“You say there are terminus stations everywhere. That is not correct! Strasbourg – through station, Karlsruhe – through station. It is true, there is terminus station in Paris. Gare de l’Est. Why? Because west of Paris there are no people, only cows and the atlantic. Stuttgart however, is right in the middle.”
His remarks not only inspired a car rental company to advertise trips to Bretagne and comedians teaching geography lessons, it also calls into question Oettinger’s professional values and diplomatic abilities. As a EU Commissioner it is not acceptable to ridicule certain EU regions (Bretagne, Normandy) or even countries (Great Britain, Ireland are also west of Paris). And his limited understanding of French geography is also not acceptable for a German Commissioner.