Barroso, commission president again? Smells fishy in Europe

Article published on April 7, 2009
Article published on April 7, 2009
Secrecy and suspicion shroud the elections for the next president of the European commission and the distribution of power between the European parties. It seems as though Hans Gert Pöttering wants to accelerate the process to enforce the Portuguese conservative’s re-election

On 7 June it will be revealed who has obtained the majority in the next European parliament. Various different unofficial candidates are considered to preside over the European commission, usually over weeks and even months. Afterwards, the European council officially proposes one of these said candidates and the European parliament votes him in or out after returning from the summer break. 

There is no way of holding a public debate on the necessary qualities which the next head of the European commission should possess

However, this year there are some individuals who want to speed up this process – thus bypassing altogether the debating period – to ensure Jose Manuel Durao Barroso’s re-election. Regardless of the fact that there are several campaigns against the Portuguese conservative - such as the green party’s Stop Barroso or Anyone but Barroso born on the European blogosphere - there is no way of holding a public debate on the necessary qualities which the next head of the European commission should possess. The president of the European parliament himself, the conservative Hans Gert Pöttering, wants to institute an accelerated schedule for the upcoming parliamentary sessions in order to ensure Barroso is re-elected. He is currently proposing that, barely a week after the European elections, a name be announced during the European summit on the 18 and 19 June. This doesn’t even allow time for parties to organise themselves!

Barroso wants to be re-elected

(Image: European commission=During the recent European summit which took place over 18 and 19 March, the entire European people’s party (EPP) publicly supported the re-election of Barroso, who is one of their own. 'It’s a shame,' laments the head of the socialist party, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen: 'that instead of occupying himself with ensuring work for European citizens, Barroso seems only concerned with securing his own job.' Even the leaders of the liberals (ELDR) declare that can’t stand the thought of the Portuguese conservative at the head of the commission.

Why then this lack of interest in presenting an alternative candidate? 'Because the heads of state and the government prefer to name a candidate with a low political profile to be able to manipulate him,' comes the suggestion from the benches of the united European left. The former president of Portugal himself, Mário Soares, has branded his compatriot as the ‘secretary’ of those in government.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen´s enemies

(Image: PES)Not everyone has surrendered. In one small village of indomitable Gauls… or rather, socialists, there are some rooting for the Euro MP and former prime minister of Denmark Poul Nyrup Rasmussen to be the next presidential candidate. Rasmussen has spent almost two years drawing up a manifesto which he hopes will transform the EU, and will be the driving force in the creation of what he has dubbed the new social Europe. Until now he has been the only candidate who has tirelessly denounced Barroso’s paralysis in the face of the economic crisis and the false reporting of figures in the recovery plan, which Barroso cites as receiving 3 % of the community’s GDP; Rasmussen declares the amount to be only 0.9 %. The French socialist Martine Aubry and the majority of the socialists would support him. As would the green party, a declaration which comes straight from the mouth of co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit himself! 

Schulzy schmalz

(Image: SPD)However, it’s a different story for the three socialists who govern larger states: British PM Gordon Brown and his Spanish and Portuguese Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Jose Sócrates. They aren’t the only scabs it seems, as it has been leaked by certain individuals from the socialist ranks, that their parliamentary spokesman, the German Martin Schulz, may have negotiated to preside over parliament alongside the Polish conservative Jerzy Buzek, in exchange for not interfering in the re-election of Barroso.

Schulz, the gullible Martin Schulz, did not count on an unforeseen occurrence at the eleventh hour. The Italians of the national alliance have joined forces with PM Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative party, and they could dominate in the European elections, which would make them the largest conservative party in the EU. According to confidential sources, Berlusconi’s Mario Mauro would be the proposed candidate for president of the parliament, who, let us not forget, will have his powers trebled with the Lisbon treaty. To make this happen, he would have to ally himself with the head of the liberals, Graham Watson, who launched a campaign in January with the sole purpose of being elected president of parliament: the two would split the presidency right down the middle. Unless Mauro’s move is purely a bluff, and his objective is to ensure that his group, EPP, grants him the role of spokesman in the European parliament (a key position within the EPP). This would thus hand over the presidency of the European parliament to Schulz and Buzek, assuring Barroso’s re-election to the commission and kicking Graham Watson to the curb, the sole casualty of the operation.

On other levels

(Image: UN)The reality is that with the introduction of the Lisbon treaty, the commission is the body of government which will lose the most influence in the EU. It will still retain the authority to choose the EU’s minister of foreign ffairs and the EU president, who could potentially have direct communication with the United States, which has historically always been a British priority. Which is why Brown may be supporting Barroso, so that the EPP grant him the position of high representative. And also why Zapatero is remaining silent, so that the former president of Spain Felipe González, head of the EU’s ‘wisemen’, chooses the EU’s next president without the members of the EPP complaining.