By Agence France-Presse
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday said it was US President Donald Trump who initiated their unexpected kiss on the cheek this week, setting the mood for a meeting that led to a surprise deal to ease trade tensions.
In what may have been a world first for the US leader, Trump was pictured receiving Juncker’s trademark greeting of a kiss in the neck area when the pair met for high-stakes talks at the White House on Wednesday.
“Surprisingly and in contrast to my usual behavior, the initiative did not come from me,” the famously tactile Juncker told German public broadcaster ARD in an interview.
“And I didn’t know that there was another photographer in the Oval Office, but it actually summed up the ambiance of the moment well. And it was Trump who published the picture, not me,” he added.
Trump, who is better known for his macho, white-knuckle handshakes with world leaders, later posted the picture of the peck on Twitter, which received almost 50,000 likes.
“Obviously the European Union, as represented by @JunckerEU and the United States, as represented by yours truly, love each other!” he wrote.
The tweet, and the kiss, summed up the buoyant mood on both sides of the Atlantic after Juncker and Trump pressed the pause button on an unfolding tit-for-tat trade war by agreeing to hold off on new tariffs while both sides negotiate ways to remove trade barriers.
The breakthrough after months of heated rhetoric marked a victory for Juncker especially, overshadowing a recent controversy that has seen him forced to fend off accusations he was drunk at a gala earlier this month.
The 63-year-old head of the powerful European Union’s executive arm last week played down the incident at a Brussels dinner with 29 NATO leaders, blaming his unsteady movements on sciatica.
At times during the event, the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Portugal were seen propping him up, and he was helped away in a wheelchair.
Sciatica is a nerve condition that can cause severe leg and back pain.
Juncker, whose five-year mandate as head of the EU’s executive arm ends in 2019, is known to use humor and frankness to achieve compromise in the 28-nation European Union.
But some of his behavior has triggered accusations that he has a penchant for alcohol, which his spokesmen have always strongly denied.