PARIS French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg accused European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday of fuelling far-right and populist movements in Europe as EU institutions failed to defend the interests of ordinary people.
His comments came just before France's conservatives narrowly saw off a challenge from the far-right National Front to win a by-election in the southern French constituency of Villeneuve-sur-Lot. President Francois Hollande's Socialists had already been eliminated in the first round.
"The European Union is paralysed. It does not respond to any of people's aspirations in the industrial, economic or budgetary fields and in the end it provides a cause to all the anti-European parties," Montebourg told France Inter radio.
"Mr. Barroso is the fuel of the French National Front, that's the truth. He is the fuel of Beppe Grillo," he said, referring to the leader of the populist 5-Star Movement which won a quarter of the vote in Italy's February election.
The Socialist Montebourg, known for his outspoken remarks, was speaking days after Barroso angered many in France by criticising Paris over its insistence that cinema and music be ring-fenced from an EU-US trade pact, describing the French position as "reactionary".
"This Brussels disease is going to be deadly for Europeans," Montebourg said of Barroso's position.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Catherine Bremer)