Greta Thunberg tells Davos 'your inaction is fuelling the flames'
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The EU Commission foreign policy chief, who has a reputation for making undiplomatic remarks, made the intervention at a European Parliament event and footage was widely circulated on Friday. In reference to Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, the Spaniard said: "The idea that young people are seriously committed to stopping climate change – we could call it Greta syndrome – permit me my doubts." He added: "It is fine to demonstrate against climate change so long as nobody asks you to pay for it.
"I wonder if the young people demonstrating on the streets of Berlin to call for measures against climate change are aware of the costs of those measures – and if they are willing to reduce their living standards to compensate Polish miners."
Mr Borrell, a 72-year-old socialist, has since been forced to apologise for his comments after an angry backlash from European politicians.
Writing on Twitter, on Saturday he said: "Just coming back from US trip, and I want to apologise to anyone that may have felt offended by my inappropriate reference to the important youth movement fighting climate change."
EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell forced to apologise after jibe at climate activists (Image: GETTY)
Josep Borrell said young activists were suffering ‘Greta syndrome’ in reference to Greta Thunberg (Image: GETTY)
Earlier on Friday, he wrote: "Youth movements to fight climate change have my full support and inspire politicians and societies.
"Climate change is one of the biggest geopolitical challenges, we can't afford costs of inaction.
"To be successful, we also need to tackle social and economic costs of the transition with Just Transition Mechanism."
Greta Thunberg has often accused politicians of ignoring climate change (Image: GETTY)
In the wake of Mr Borrell's comments, Reinhard Butikofer, a German Green MEP, demanded an apology from the Spaniard.
Mr Butikofer said: 'You owe the youth climate movement that you are disparaging in this video, a very clear apology.
"This is not just a case of foot-in-the-mouth, this openly runs counter to the policy of the EU, which we can expect you to support and to implement."
Brussels climate protesters slammed Josep Borrell’s comments (Image: GETTY)
A leading student climate activist, Anuna De Wever, 18, also slammed Mr Borrell's comments during a fresh protest in Brussels.
She told AFP: "That a commission says that is impossible is completely ridiculous because he knows that it's not and there is no alternative because then humanity will cease to exist if we don't actually solve the climate crisis.
"This is going to be really expensive. Obviously we're willing to pay the price to have a future."
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The European Commission sought to distance itself from Mr Borrell's comments and said the bloc's support for its green deal was "100 percent clear".
A spokesman for the Brussels-based executive said all of its officials, including the Spaniard, stood behind the bloc's climate push, "which acknowledges and supports the ambitions of young and less young people to combat climate change".
They added: "I don't think Greta syndrome has been defined as a medical condition yet."
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