9th Dec 2023

Other EU problems should come before constitution, says Barroso

  • Mr Barroso was accused of interfering in local Slovak politics during his visit (Photo: European Commission)

European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has warned against member states trying to revive the EU constitution before other European problems are solved.

Speaking during a visit to Slovakia, Mr Barroso rejected what he called "floating ideas" on how to revive the constitution.

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"It is premature to deal with the institutions, while there is no clear consensus on where to go," he said.

"We should have a policy-driven agenda, so people can see the benefits of the European Union," he said, underlining the need for a common energy policy and a strong internal market.

Mr Barroso's comments came only a few days after Berlin suggested adopting the text under the new name "Basic Treaty for Europe". It was also the main topic at the centre-right European People’s Party congress in Rome last month.

The EU constitution has been on ice since last year when France and the Netherlands rejected the document in referendums. Since then member states have been divided about what to do with the charter.

Several ideas have been floated including revising the text of the constitution.

However, Mr Barroso announced that the commission will present its own ideas on what to do next with the constitution in May.

Local politics

During his Slovakia visit, the commission president also became embroiled in local politics after he was accused of interfering in the country's pre-election campaign.

Mr Barroso praised the reformist drive of the Slovak government, underlining that Slovakia "should continue to vigorously implement and improve its reform programme."

"June's general election should not divert too much attention away from this essential task," he added.

His statements came as Slovakia prepares for its general elections on 17 June and led to some sharp criticism.

The country's main opposition party (Smer-Social Democrats) called Mr Barroso’s comments unacceptable and accused him of "making political propaganda, while promoting harmful right-wing experiments, rejected even in Portugal."

The reforms are set to be central to Slovakia's election battle between the centre-right party of prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda and the centre-left opposition, which has signalled it would cancel some of the economic reforms introduced in past years.

Mr Barroso distanced himself from Slovak domestic politics saying he only emphasised commitments linked to the EU's Lisbon strategy and agreed at the European level.

Since 2002, the Slovak centre-right government has carried out several reforms, including labour market, pension and health care reforms.

It also introduced a 19 percent flat tax on individuals and corporations. The Slovak economy grew by 5.6 percent last year, while the budget deficit fell to 2.9 percent.

However, the unemployment rate remains the second highest in the EU, with the burden falling particularly hard on women and young people.

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