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Juncker working ‘full throttle’, says EU after ‘stumble’ sparks new health concerns

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker misses a step at a dinner in Vienna on Monday. Photo: Getty

The European commission has dismissed concerns over the health of its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, after images emerged which appear to show him stumbling at a dinner in Vienna.

Juncker was pictured being propped-up by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney and an EU aide at a reception for the Africa-Europe summit being held in Austria on Monday evening.

The 64-year-old appeared to lose his balance after missing a step as he made his way to dinner.

It’s not the first time the former president of Luxembourg has suffered with mobility issues at high profile events. He had to leave July’s Nato summit in a wheelchair after struggling to walk.

The commission explained at the time the incident was caused by a flare-up of the president’s long standing problem with sciatica, which causes cramps and severe pain in the back.

Addressing concerns Juncker was suffering fresh health problems, a commission spokesperson said: “Photos sometimes lie, as they do in this case.”

Juncker high fives with the prime minister of Croatia Photo: Getty

“In this case the president is in full good health and in full throttle since yesterday evening representing the European Union at the Africa-Europe High Level Forum,” she added. “I was just in contact with him and he’s all good.

“Sometimes he has pain walking because he also had a very bad car accident. For those who do not know, that was in 1989 and it was a very bad car accident and for several days his life was even in danger. So that’s the context when people look at such footage.”

READ MORE: Juncker’s problems standing caused by “painful attack” of back problem

Juncker appeared in high spirits at Monday’s event, being pictured giving a high-five to Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenkovic and hugging Estonian prime minister Juri Ratas.

He later gave a speech stressing the need for Europe and Africa to “create a partnership on an equal footing based on shared responsibility” by deepening trade in a bid to create sustainable jobs and growth.

The event came on the same day it was revealed a backdated Christmas pay boost for the commission president means Juncker’s monthly pay is now almost equal to the average annual wage for British workers.

READ MORE: Christmas pay rise means EU chiefs make UK average annual wage every month