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13th Apr 2024

Barroso hits back at French critics

  • Barroso (r) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a film star and former governor of California, at an event in Brussels on Monday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has said his left-wing French critics are "protectionists" who use "exactly the same language as the far right."

He also told a news conference in Brussels on Monday (23 June) that: "It would be good if some politicians understood that they will not get very far by attacking Europe and trying to turn the European Commission into a scapegoat for their difficulties."

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Earlier the same day, a commission spokesman accused Barroso's French enemies of "chauvinism."

Michel Barnier, the French commissioner in charge of the single market portfolio, also defended his boss.

"I've had it up to here with this and I say that with a degree of anger … I've had enough of hearing ministers in my country, politicians from left and right, saying that it is all somebody else's fault," he told media.

The remarks come in reaction to comments by Arnaud Montebourg, the firebrand French minister for industry.

Montebourg on Sunday said commission austerity is "fuelling" the rise of the far right after the National Front party humiliated the ruling Socialists in a by-election.

It is the third such attack by the Socialists in almost as many weeks.

For her part, National Front leader Marine Le Pen seized the opportunity on Monday to call Barroso "a catastrophe for our country and our continent" and a symptom of "a European system gone mad."

Former French foreign minister, centre-right politician Alain Juppe, also took a swipe.

He told French TV on Monday that Barroso's views on globalisation belong in the 1950s. "The President of the European Commission dates somewhat from the last century," he said.

The row comes in the context of increasing commission pressure on France to make financial reforms.

In May, Brussels gave Paris an extra two years to meet deficit targets.

But France refuses to overhaul its pensions system and its labour market in line with EU demands, causing tension.

Barroso himself has aggravated the atmosphere by his choice of words.

He told the International Herald & Tribune newspaper last week that French Socialists who pushed for an exemption on culture in EU-US free trade talks are "reactionaries."

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