Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Barroso urges EU states to appoint new commission president next week

EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels next week must appoint a new head of the European Commission and not delay the decision, said the current head of the institution and only candidate for the job, Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Barroso, whose mandate expires at the end of October, said EU leaders should take a decision on the next commission president based on the bloc's current treaty, the Nice Treaty.

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  • French Green leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit has called Mr Barroso a political "chameleon" (Photo: ec.europa)

"It's up to the council [EU member states] and the European parliament to decide, of course based on the treaty, and the treaty in force at the moment is the Treaty of Nice," he said at a press conference in Brussels.

"The European parliament was elected according to the Treaty of Nice," he stressed.

But some member states, notably France and Germany, are reportedly favourable to delaying the decision and giving a simple "political backing" to Mr Barroso next week.

Under this scenario, the next commission president would be appointed in October, at the same time as the new EU foreign minister and the EU president – new posts created by the Lisbon Treaty, which may by then have been ratified by the Irish in a second referendum.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is today meeting German chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris, will only give France's position on the issue at the EU summit next week, government spokesperson Luc Chatel said.

The issue could become a sore point at the summit, with Sweden, as incoming EU presidency country, insisting that Mr Barroso be given the job a second time and with a full mandate from June.

Opposition forming in the parliament

If appointed next week, Mr Barroso would then have to be approved by the European Parliament, a simple majority under current rules.

While he can count on the centre-right EPP parliamentarians' vote, this will not suffice – they are expected to have 264 seats in the new parliament – and more allies will be needed to secure the Portuguese politician a second mandate.

But the Socialists, who have been unable to put forward an own candidate, have been critical of Mr Barroso and have indicated they would not support him for a second mandate.

"Mr Barroso stands for a policy which we opposed in the [EU] elections. I cannot recommend at the moment that my fraction supports Mr Barroso for a second term," Socialist group leader Martin Schulz told the Financial Times Deutschland on Wednesday.

The Socialists suffered a blow at the European elections, but remain the second biggest force in the new parliament with 161 seats.

Meanwhile, the Liberals – the third group in the house with 80 MEPs – seem to be divided on the issue. Their leader Graham Watson has indicated they could support Mr Barroso. It would be the "logical conclusion" for there to be a centre-right alliance of liberals and the EPP for the vote, he said earlier this week.

But French centrist leader Francois Bayrou, whose MoDem party sits with the Liberals and will send six MEPs in the new parliament, has said French liberals would vote against Mr Barroso. Italy's liberals would reportedly do so as well.

"If we have a mixed majority of liberals, democrats, greens, socialists, we can propose an alternative," Mr Bayrou was quoted as saying by news agency AFP on Tuesday, noting that his party has already suggested former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt for the job.

Mr Bayrou accepted a call by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, whose Europe Ecologie green movement in France surprised analysts by coming third (16.3%) in the elections and neck and neck with the Socialists (16.5%), to form a green-socialist-liberal coalition against the current commission president.

In an interview with French daily Liberation earlier this week, Mr Cohn-Bendit said he wanted to "get rid of" Mr Barroso, arguing that he is not only too liberal economically, "but he [also] is incapable of holding to a position."

The greens will have 53 seats in the new parliament, 14 of which taken by France.

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