Empty Plenary Hall - Problem of the European Parliament

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European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker launched a blistering attack Tuesday on a almost empty European Parliament, sparking bitter exchanges with the head of the EU's only directly elected institution.

The debate was about the Maltese presidency of the European Council, which recently ended.

Mr Tanjani interjected and asked for him to adopt a "more respectful attitude", adding: "You may criticise the Parliament but the Commission does not control the Parliament".

"You may criticize the parliament, yes, but the [European] Commission does not control the parliament, it's the parliament that should be controlling the Commission", he said, to a smattering of applause. "It's the parliament that has to control the commission", said Tajani, a fellow member of the centre-right EPP party.

His outburst sparked a heated exchange with the President of the Parliament, Antonio Tajani, who ordered him to be more "respectful".

The President of the European Commission launched a furious attack on the institution as he vented his frustration at politicians who had skipped the session. "You are ridiculous", Juncker replied.

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This often means MEPs do not turn up to morning debates and don't have to in order to claim their daily amount of £268 (€306), which comes from the bloc's coffers made up of contributions from its member states.

The European Parliament is usually based in Brussels, Belgium, but once a month its members travel more than 200 miles with their staff and documents in tow to Strasbourg, France, where the Parliament also has a chamber. "We are not ridiculous", Tajani angrily retorted.

Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, smiled and seemed bemused by the clash.

'I wanted to pay tribute to the Maltese....' "If here today was the German Chancellor Angela Merkel or the French President Emmanuel Macron, the room would be full", said Juncker.

The European Commission is technically accountable to the Parliament.

While Muscat witnessed the angry exchange between the two European Union institution leaders with a smile, both Juncker and Tajani were applauded by some of the MEPs who were in the room.

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