28th Jan 2023

Field cleared for Portuguese PM

After a protracted behind-the-scenes political dance, the Portuguese prime minister Jose Manuel Durão Barroso has become an official candidate for European Commission president - having secured the backing of Germany, France and the UK.

The 48-year old, who began his political career as a Maoist student and eventually became Portugal's leader is 2002, is set to be nominated for the job at a summit in Brussels tomorrow (29 June).

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Irish prime minister and current head of the EU Bertie Ahern, who conducted a marathon set of phone calls to national capitals to find out if he would be acceptable to all, said on Sunday, "I am very pleased to be able to confirm that there is overwhelming support for the appointment of Portuguese Prime Minister Durão Barroso as President of the Commission".

Franco-German support

The unassuming Mr Durão Barroso has secured the support of France, Spain and Germany - thought to have been in doubt because of his organisation of the Azores Summit on the eve of the Iraq war with US President George W. Bush and former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said yesterday that Mr Durão Barroso, who is a multi-lingual lawyer, "could reckon with Germany's support".

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "there would be a smile on my face if he was to emerge".

At a price

According to FT Deutschland, France, the most vocal of EU countries against the Iraq war, would also support him.

President Chirac reportedly signalled his support during a conversation with Angela Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democrat opposition in Germany.

The approval of Paris and Berlin does not come without a price. Both countries will now expect big industy and economic portfolios in the new commission.

Mr Schröder is already campaigning for enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen to take on the job of "super commissioner" - in charge of economic and industry policy - in November.

Socialists against

But not everyone approves. The socialists, the second biggest group in the European Parliament, have already signalled their opposition to the centre-right candidate.

In a letter sent to EU governments on Sunday, the Party of European Socialists (PES), said "we have to widen the choice beyond right-wing candidates only".

"It is more important for Europe to find the right person for this position, rather than somebody from the right at any price", continues the letter.

If selected by EU leaders tomorrow in Brussels, Mr Durão Barroso then has to be approved by the European Parliament.


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