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Watch: 'You are a local winner, I am a global winner', Juncker tells Muscat

A joint press conference was characterised by a one-upmanship sideshow

The curious exchange came at the start of Mr Juncker's remarks. Video: European Commission

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is never shy of telling the world that he and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat get along like a house on fire. 

"We are old friends," Mr Juncker told journalists last November, and today he reminded them of their "excellent relationship", just hours after telling his 355,568 Twitter followers that he was "with my good friend Joseph Muscat". 

READ: We must start by securing the EU's borders, says PM Muscat

But if there is one thing guaranteed to get politicians to sweep niceties under the carpet, it is a challenge to their ego, as a brief exchange between the two men demonstrated this afternoon. 

With both men hosting a joint press conference at Castille, Mr Juncker recalled how, back in 2014, he had visited Malta while campaigning to become Commission President. 

While Mr Juncker forms part of the European People's Party, Dr Muscat's Labour Party falls under the Party of European Socialists grouping.

"You lost, I won," he jokingly told his host.

The one-liner prompted an immediate retort. "I won here and you won there," Dr Muscat replied.

With both men duly acknowledged as winners and their egos soothed, the exchange could have ended there. 

But Mr Juncker - who has made no bones about his outsized ego in the past - had to get the last word in. 

"You are a local winner," he said as he turned to look at his audience, "I am a global winner".

Ever the politician, Mr Juncker immediately went on to talk about the "excellent professional and personal" relationship he has with Dr Muscat and expressed optimism about Malta's presidency of the EU Council. 

Mr Juncker is well-versed in the art of making counterparts feel awkward. Back in 2015, he answered a phone call while Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was speaking at a joint press conference, and last year he mocked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a summit in Riga, saying "the dictator is coming" before offering him a high-five instead of a handshake. 

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