Jean-Claude Juncker, veteran head of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, has reaffirmed his plan to quit the job this year and branded the current generation of European leaders as ungifted pragmatists.
Juncker, who is prime minister of Luxembourg and is known for his sometimes sharp comments, also told Germany's Die Zeit weekly that rising nationalism and a weaker sense of European history posed fresh dangers to the European Union.
Asked if he would really give up a job he has held for more than seven years, Juncker replied: Yes, this is still the state of affairs, according to a pre-release of the interview.
Citing a heavy workload and health issues, Juncker has already said he wants to relinquish the high-profile job but there has been talk he may be asked to stay on while the sovereign debt crisis persists. His term ends in June.
The job involves coordinating policy among the finance ministers of the 17 countries that share the euro.
In the interview, due to be published on Thursday, Juncker, a staunch supporter of greater European integration, referred to his peers as ungifted pragmatists who lacked what he called the breakneck European audacity of their forbears and were content just to manage their inheritance.
My generation, currently holding the reins of power, must learn to finally cement Europe, it quoted him as saying.
The paper gave no further details but Juncker is one of few European leaders still politically active who were involved in the negotiations of the 1990s that launched the euro currency.
Juncker has poor relations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and has also criticised Germany over its treatment of other euro zone countries during the debt crisis.
Juncker said 17 of the EU's 27 member states had less debt than Germany, though the bloc is enforcing austerity measures mainly at Berlin's insistence.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is in the running for Juncker's job, one of several up for grabs in what is expected to be a round of political horse-trading between European Union countries.
(Writing by Gareth Jones and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)