EU Socialists disagree with early choice of commission chief

30.03.09 @ 09:25

  1. By Valentina Pop
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European Socialists do not agree with proposals to confirm a new European Commission president on 15 July, saying that the European Parliament would have too little time to make up its mind.

  • Poul Nyrup Rasmussen wants more time for the election of the commission president (Photo: PES)

EU heads of state and government could decide at their 18 June summit if conservative Portuguese statesman Jose Manuel Barroso is to receive a second mandate at the head of the commission, provided the centre-right keeps its majority after the 4 to 7 June elections for the European Parliament.

"This does not give enough time for the new parliament to express itself. The elections take place on 7 June. We would need a longer time afterwards," Socialist leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen told French daily Le Monde over the weekend.

Under EU rules, MEPs must in a plenary sitting give their blessing to a new commission chief and his team.

Earlier this month, the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, said that he was in favour of EU leaders choosing the head of the executive quickly.

"What counts is that we hold elections [in June] and that the president reflects the results of the parliamentary elections. Mr Barroso has done a good job," Mr Poettering said.

The German politician is a former leader of the centre-right EPP-ED group, which currently holds the majority in the parliament and is expected to win the June elections. The EPP has officially backed Mr Barroso for a second term.

The process could be delayed because the commission's current term formally expires only at the end of October.

A former Danish prime minister between 1993 and 2001, Mr Rasmussen said the European Socialist Party (PES) would not back Mr Barroso for a second mandate, despite the fact that some left-leaning national leaders have openly expressed their support, such as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Spanish premier Jose Rodriguez Zapatero.

"I speak on behalf of the PES, not national governments. One thing is sure: the PES will not back Mr Barroso. He is the candidate of the European People's Party (EPP). He will never represent the opinions of the Socialist family, even if some social-democratic governments back him, for national reasons. But the parliament has to have the last word after the elections," Mr Rasmussen said.

He criticised the way Mr Barroso has managed the current economic crisis and for counting the existing national social protection mechanisms as part of the EU stimulus package.

The Socialist leader spoke in favour of an EU-wide stimulus package worth two percent of the EU gross domestic product, rather than the current co-ordination between national measures. He also warned against a "new economic Berlin wall," suggesting that solidarity between old and new member states is being challenged by the current crisis.

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