Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Borrell said he had doubts about young people’s genuine engagement to tackling climate change, and questioned whether they were ready to change their lifestyles to help compensate miners and others who will be most affected by measures to cut carbon emissions.
“It is fine to demonstrate for climate change as long as you are not asked to contribute to pay for it,” Borrell said, calling this attitude “Greta syndrome” in reference to 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Under pressure, Borrell, a Spanish socialist, later apologized. “I want to apologize to anyone that may have felt offended by my inappropriate reference to the important youth movement fighting #climatechange,” he tweeted on Saturday.
But facing more criticism on social media and from journalists, a commission spokeswoman was forced on Monday to repeat Borrell’s apologies, describing his remarks as “inappropriate”.
“We hope with that tweet ... the situation is clarified,” spokeswoman Dana Spinant told a news conference, adding that all commissioners supported young activists engaged to reducing the impact of climate change.