Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

Barroso says EU is an 'empire'

The EU is not just any old international organisation, nor is it a superstate, but it might just be an "empire," according to European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

Veering into uncharted naming territory after being asked on Tuesday (10 July) by a journalist what kind of a structure the 27-nation bloc is, Mr Barroso said "We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind,"

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"Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire," he said.

He went on the clarify that instead of like super state empires of old, the EU empire is built on voluntary pooling of power and not on military conquest.

"What we have is the first non-imperial empire," said the centre-right Mr Barroso, who was formally Portugal's prime minister.

"We have 27 countries that fully decided to work together and to pool their sovereignty. I believe it is a great construction and we should be proud of it."

The commission chief said he did not see why the EU should constantly be in "existential doubt" about this, adding that he did not see there being a danger of British, German or French identity ever being lost.

Communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom, present at the same press conference, steered clear of empire references.

Instead she paraphrased former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright's comment that one has to be either a "genius or French" to understand the EU.

They made the comments after giving the commission's official go ahead to a new treaty outline for the bloc.

This is to be negotiated over the coming months and is to result in a treaty being finalised before the end of the year.

The treaty mandate was agreed at an ill-tempered EU summit last month and is already being put into question in some capitals.

Poland has been particularly vocal about re-opening a key part of the agreement on EU voting rights.

But Mr Barroso reiterated previous comments that the treaty outline should not be undone.

"There is a principle of good faith. For me it is as important as any legal commitment," he said. "It is inconceivable that an agreement that was agreed unanimously in June is reopened now."

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