4th Jun 2023

Barroso vote to be postponed

  • The Barroso vote now looks set to take place in September (Photo: EUobserver)

Member states on Friday (3 July) admitted they did not have enough support for a mid-July European Parliament vote on Jose Manuel Barroso's bid to become European Commission president for a second time.

The vote is now likely to be postponed until September with the Swedish EU presidency hoping to get it wrapped up by the middle of that month.

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"We have spoken to several party group leaders and no decision is going to be taken on Mr Barroso in July within the European Parliament. I hope, however, that we will be able to decide within the near future on when that decision will be adopted," said Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

"We have to show all respect due to this independent institution. We shouldn't lay the basis for open dispute or argument between the institutions," he added, after his officials spent the last days sounding out opinions in the EU assembly.

National governments had given their political backing for Mr Barroso at their traditional summer summit last month and had been pushing for a quick July vote.

The retreat by member states comes after several groups in the European Parliament - including the Socialists, Liberals, Greens and far-left - were up in arms about the timing of the vote, planned for 15 July.

Not supporters of Mr Barroso, whom they see as being too pro-business or too inactive on certain issues, the groups claimed there was not enough time to thoroughly grill the Portuguese politician on his planned policies for the next five years.

They had also been objecting to a quick vote on legal and technical grounds. The addition of the Liberal group to the anti-Barroso camp earlier this week tipped the scales in their favour.

It meant that the centre-right EPP, which supports a quick vote on Mr Barroso, would have had to resort to courting the eurosceptics to be sure of winning a majority on voting day.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was in Stockholm meeting the Swedish leader, said that Paris had always said it would not be a "disaster" if the vote took place between the 15 July and 15 September.

He added that after consultations between the Swedish presidency and the political groups in the parliament "we will be able to nominate Mr Barroso, I hope, in September."

"The party groups of the European parliament will get back to us and tell us when they have agreed on the decision they have agreed to adopt and when," said Mr Reinfeldt.

The leaders of the political groups will travel to Stockholm for discussions on the issue on Monday (6 July).

Formalising Mr Barroso's support

The expected delay is a blow to Mr Barroso who has been working the phones of MEPs to try and persuade them to come out in support of him this month.

The postponement means that other names could emerge over the summer months putting his chances of a second commission presidency into jeopardy.

For the EU as a whole, the danger is that some MEPs, sensing their power over member states on this issue, may push to postpone the vote even further, until after Ireland has voted on the EU's new set of rules, the Lisbon Treaty, in October.

This could open a whole new round of haggling on other posts and leave the Swedish EU presidency without a focussed European Commission for several months.

In order to try and keep deputies focussed on Mr Barroso, Stockholm is planning to formalise his nomination - he currently only has political backing from EU leaders.

This would neutralise a key complaint of the deputies - that they cannot discuss an informal candidate - and put the ball back in their court so, Stockholm hopes, they will agree to take a vote in September.

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