Juncker needs no protection from tough questions, EU says

September 19, 2016 10:42 AM EDT

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg, France, September 14, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo


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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Monday that Jean-Claude Juncker needed no protection from awkward questions after a video blogger accused a staffer at YouTube of trying to censor her questions to the EU chief executive.

Juncker, 61, gave a series of live interviews on YouTube last Thursday to young social media celebrities, including French 'vlogger' Laetitia Birbes, aiming to counter an image of Brussels' bureaucrats as stuffy and out of touch.

But Birbes accused a YouTube staffer of threatening her career on Google's online video platform if she asked tough questions.

"They expected me to put really easy questions," she said in a video posted on Sunday. "It was all meant as a big advert for Juncker."

She included a video clip showing a man in a YouTube T-shirt telling her before the interview that she should not "alienate" the Commission and YouTube - "unless you don't plan on lasting long on YouTube". ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y-xS_EB3QI )

However, Birbes did in the end ask Juncker whether, as a long-time premier of the "tax haven" Luxembourg, his campaign against corporate tax avoidance was like having a bank robber as chief of police.

The European Commission president replied that "robbers and poachers" often made the best policemen.

The Commission's chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters on Monday that, after more than a quarter of century in politics, Juncker needed no protection from interviewers and would not let his staff try to water down questions.

"Frankly," he said, "we are a bit annoyed that for some reason we are now becoming part of the story with which we have absolutely nothing to do."

YouTube said its employee had been responding to an inquiry from Birbes about how to pitch her questions.

"Our colleague encouraged her to be respectful rather than confrontational," it said, noting that she had asked the questions she wanted to ask.

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Kevin Liffey)



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